Project VITAL connects Florida seniors to families with virtual technology

Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 10:04:46-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) — Project: VITAL (Virtual Inclusive Technology for All) will utilize virtual technology to relieve the difficult symptoms of social isolation for people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Governor Ron DeSantis and Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom announced the project earlier this week.

"The governor has taken the appropriate precautions to protect those older adults who are currently in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, to restrict visitations," said Secretary Richard Prudom.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a disproportionate impact on older adults. The social isolation can cause negative health impacts in the elderly.

Prudom and the Department of Elder Affairs, alongside the Alzheimer's Association, came up with the creative way to keep older adults engaged while in isolation.

The idea of VITAL is to establish a virtual technology platform in every nursing home and assisted living facility in the Sunshine State.

"That virtual technology platform will also have a couple of tablets, which are large tablets for use by older adults," said Prudom. "On those tablets, they will be able to access advanced content for each individual. On each tablet, it will have up to 20 different profiles, and on your profile, you'll have your music of your choice, you'll have access to books, TV shows or movies, but you'll also have the opportunity to video chat and email with your loved ones."

According to Prudom, the beauty of the project is not just the fact that seniors can engage with the tablets, but that those employed at assisted living facilities and nursing homes can benefit from the tablets, as well.

"Staff will have access through the Alzheimer's Association specific information, with people living with dementia," said Prudom. "So, the staff will be able to learn and participate in programming that can help them interact better with their residents."

There is a unique side of this project, too. It takes an existing virtual technology platform that addresses socialization. However, there is a need for dementia patients.

"Over two-thirds of people in these facilities have some form of dementia," said Prudom. "Two-thirds-- which is an awful lot. So, the Alzheimer's Association has put together some specific programming for residents who are living with dementia, to be able to access that program, and help them in a unique way."

Prudom also said the programming can help the staff, so they can learn more about their patients with dementia, and how to interact with those same patients.

The project's initial phase will also begin in Broward County.

"Broward County is an area of community spread," Prudom said. "We also know there are 271 assisted living facilities in that county."

The department is also addressing the Spanish-speaking communities as well as English.

The initial phase of the project will roll out to 150 care communities in a few weeks. If the project goes as planned, the rest of Florida's nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be a part of VITAL.