Breaking down the walls of isolation

When we think about webcams usually the first thing that pops into our heads have something to do with dorm rooms or military barracks.

That's not so much the case anymore. On Wednesday, the Athenaeum of Skaneateles became the first adult home in the area to make the technology available to its residents and their families.

"It's fun. For us it's really turned into a nice activity," said Melissa Dobbins, development director at Peregrine Health Management Company's Syracuse office.

The technology allows residents to videoconference with people they have met while out on group excursions with the Athenaeum and have face-to-face interaction with their families.

Earlier in the week, June Sauer spent time talking to her daughter, something the two women enjoy doing frequently.

The only difference was Sauer was in one room of the Athenaeum and her daughter, Trish, was in a different room. They were getting a little face time via the Internet and webcams. When Sauer's daughter left, she took a camera with her so they can continue to visit once back in Vermont.

"I had no problem with it," Sauer said after her webcam-enabled conversation with Dobbins.

According to president of Peregrine Stephen Bowman, webcams in assisted living and nursing home facilities came about a few years ago when former Gov. Elliott Spitzer was still attorney general. At the time Spitzer had cameras installed to catch employees who were abusing residents.

What has come out of the initial push for cameras has turned into a new communication tool for the seniors living at the Athenaeum and it will help break down the barriers of living independently and being isolated.

Sauer said she was hoping to talk to her daughter again using the webcams Wednesday night or Thursday, but it depended on her work schedule.

"I think it take the conference call to the next level," Mayor Bob Green said after he used the technology to talk to Dobbins. "This is a perfect application for this type of technology."

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