WASHINGTON — In a show of confidence in its innovative work in aging, Lutheran Services in America was awarded funding by the Consumer Technology Association® Foundation to address social isolation amongst home-bound older adults in underserved communities. The grant expands the innovative virtual reality programming led by Lutheran Services in America member Lutheran Senior Services, which champions the adoption of virtual reality technology to provide immersive shared experiences to older adults and their caregivers in Missouri.
The new funding will allow 100 older adults with mobility and cognitive challenges and their caregivers at Lutheran Senior Services communities in the counties of Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis, Missouri, to experience virtual reality devices to connect with the outside world. Lutheran Senior Services will advance the use of the technology as an intervention to combat social isolation, which can pose serious health risks for homebound older adults. Virtual reality devices afford users the opportunity to explore new places such as the Great Barrier Reef or cross off a bucket list experience such as skydiving.
“We recognize the importance of using innovative approaches to address social isolation, which is widespread and has devastating effects on the physical and emotional health of older adults and their caregivers. Isolated older adults benefit from the sense of community that this innovative technology brings. Lutheran Senior Services is a leader in this area and we are proud to work together in partnership,” said Alesia Frerichs, president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America.
The grant also provides family caregivers with access to virtual reality devices to meaningfully connect with the outside world alongside their care recipients. Family caregivers assist with the physical and social needs of their loved ones, often at the expense of their own health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers caregiving an “important public health issue” and has found that more than half of family caregivers report a decline in their own health, which impacts their ability to provide care to their loved ones.
“Integrating technology into our services is just as vital for the well-being of the caregiver as it is for the person receiving care. We’re looking forward to providing new, engaging opportunities for older adults and caregivers to experience together and create shared memories,” said Adam Marles, president and CEO of Lutheran Senior Services.
“Lutheran Senior Services, through their groundbreaking virtual reality programming, exemplifies the spirit of the CTA Foundation’s mission to leverage technology for positive aging experiences. We are honored to support their efforts in empowering older adults in Missouri, providing them with a renewed sense of adventure and connection through immersive virtual reality experiences,” said Steve Ewell, executive director of the Consumer Technology Association Foundation.
This year’s funding builds on the success of previous partnership with the Consumer Technology Association Foundation that resulted in 650 older adults living in affordable housing communities in multiple states to gain access to technology to advance their skill sets, connect with loved ones virtually and engage in stimulating activities.
The 2023 grant is the fourth consecutive year of deepening investment from the Consumer Technology Association Foundation in Lutheran Services in America initiatives to support older adults and caregivers in underserved communities.
About Lutheran Services in America
Lutheran Services in America is a national network of 300 health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in the United States each year. Recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Forbes as one of the nation’s top nonprofit organizations, the Lutheran Services in America network operates with more than $23 billion in combined annual revenue. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Lutheran Services in America leads innovative collaborations with its member organizations and partners in philanthropy, academia, healthcare and business to address the most critical challenges in our communities and empower people to lead their best lives.