Edmonton woman sets up tech fund to help seniors feel less lonely

Author and consumer advocate Kelley Keehn, along with the Edmonton Community Foundation, has created a fund in honour of her mother to help seniors become more socially connected.

'I saw what Facebook did for her and it really opened up this ability for her to connect with family'

Consumer advocate Kelley Keehn, created the Kathleen S. Keehn Tribute Fund, in honour of her mother, to help seniors become more socially connected. (Wyatt Cavanaugh)

Kelley Keehn's mother was the youngest of 14 children. Now, her mother has only one sibling left.

Keehn would take her mother to see her brother as often as she could before he died. The two spoke on the phone every day, Keehn said.

But Keehn, who travels frequently as a consumer advocate, recognizes talking on the phone is not the same.

"When I Skype with my husband I feel so much more connected to him," Keehn said.

"I see his face. And wouldn't it have been nice if my uncle had a smartphone and could have video-chatted with my mom or something of that sort? I just think it would have brought so much more joy in those later years for him."

Keehn said she spent a lot of time in senior care homes visiting relatives and came up with the idea of a technology fund for care homes.

We find out why local consumer advocate Kelley Keehn is starting a new fund to help seniors be less isolated and lonely. 8:01

Keehn, along with the Edmonton Community Foundation, created the Kathleen S. Keehn Tribute Fund, in honour of her mother, to help seniors become more socially connected.

"Now my mom's 80 and she's amazing, she's super tech-savvy," Keehn said in an interview on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Monday. "She's not isolated at all. But I saw what Facebook did for her and it really opened up this ability for her to connect with family all over the world.

Seniors isolated

A report commissioned by the Canadian foundation Vital Signs, suggested 30 per cent of seniors feel isolated, said donor co-ordinator Kathy Hawkesworth.

"There's many reasons for it," Hawkesworth said. "But just how wonderful that someone steps forward to say, 'I saw a need and I plan to do something about it.'"

Vital Signs paired Keehn with CapitalCare, which runs several continuing care homes in Edmonton.

CapitalCare was already on the same wavelength. Its 275-bed Dickinsfield long-term care centre in northeast Edmonton already had a technology room, where seniors and their children are trained to use technology.

"Even something like having a smartphone with a playlist," Keehn said. "How calming and something we take for granted. I have tons of playlists I don't think about. But if you're maybe in your 80s or 90s ... at Dickensfield they're curating these playlists, all these things that we don't give a second thought to could bring so much more joy to a senior."

For Keehn, her mother's fund has also opened up a larger conversation for her family about leaving a legacy.

"We didn't grow up with means so to be able to leave a legacy even in a teeny-tiny way, is very exciting," she said.

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).


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