The Star-Herald

Utility gives $20,000 to help agency reduce social isolation

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Versant Power recently awarded the Aroostook Agency on Aging a $20,000 charitable donation to help improve mental health through increased social supports. 

During the pandemic, many of the agency’s consumers needed to continue to receive services from a safe  distance. This need led to the creation of a program to help clients access services from the comfort of  their own homes. Clients without access to technology are now able to borrow tablet computers at no cost and receive health and wellness services virtually.  

“We understand the crucial need for increased social supports in our communities and are pleased to partner with the Aroostook Agency on Aging,” said Versant Power Director of Customer Service and Communications Kendra Overlock. “We know the agency will continue its great work to improve quality  of life and well-being for our aging community with this initiative focused on mental health.” 

Judy Anderson, director of community and volunteer services for Aroostook Agency on Aging, noted that her organization has worked to increase access to programming for those who might not have considered  themselves internet savvy prior to the pandemic. 

With support from the federal CARES Act, the Maine Community Foundation and Versant Power, the  agency can offer iPads and technology assistance to older people and those with disabilities in need of resources such as chronic disease self-management classes and the Online Gathering Place support program. 

Thus far the agency has loaned over half of the iPads available to individuals who have expressed a need for technology with connectivity thus allowing them to take part in classes or remote services. The agency plans to order more tablets as the demand increases. 

Though virtual services do not replace the more spontaneous atmosphere of an in-person event,  introducing older people to telecommunications technology broadens their connections to others,  provides information on healthy habits, and allows participation in support programs.  

“Prior to COVID, some of our consumers did not see the benefit of using this type of technology, but now they realize what they can do with it,” Anderson said. “Our loaner iPads have opened up opportunities to take other classes and access additional services.”

Aroostook Agency on Aging is one of three nonprofit community partners in Versant Power’s service  territory receiving donations to support mental health programs this summer. 

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