The Social Support iPad isolation project changed the lives of Walla's Bob and Netty Vangelder.
The program, now drawing to a close, gave isolated seniors an iPad and taught them how to use it for 12 months, with the aim of keeping them connected to family, friends and the outside world during the pandemic.
Mr Vangelder said he and Mrs Vangelder, originally from the Netherlands, had been using the technology to make video calls.
"Every fortnight Netty speaks with her sister in the Netherlands and I speak with the brother-in-law for a while, and that's fantastic," he said.
"It's really changed our life a little, because we have no children and most of our friends, unfortunately, have passed on."
Mr Vangelder said the video calls were even more special because they were able to converse in their first language.
"You will understand much better, and it is important that you still speak your first language because that's the language your mum taught you," he said.
"It gives you a 'warm fuzzy', if you know what I mean."
Mr Vangelder has had more experience using technology than other participants in the program, but said he was impressed with the iPad.
"I could not believe it at first," he said.
"That you push a few buttons and you can talk to someone on the other side of the world and also you can see them.
"I'm still playing with that little machine and finding out things I can do with it.
"It worked out very well ... you know what the great thing now is? I get to keep it!"
Of the seven participants in the program who were given iPads, five decided to keep them and use their own sim cards.
Holbrook's Ruth Parker worked one-on-one teaching the participants how to use the iPads in sessions that up to two hours, according to individuals' needs.
"They were so open to learning," she said.
"Our biggest issue with some was just to unlock it and learn that you actually touch this screen.
"Especially with their hands and their limited mobility, and being able to focus, but we made sure when we set up the iPads that they were in extra large fonts ... we taught them how to zoom in and out.
"It's not just taking on technology, but taking on a new form of technology.
"We didn't always just have to stick to the iPads, I ended up helping a lot of people with their own phones, TVs and computers."
She said her clients had been using the iPads for news, weather, social media, pictures, maps, music, video calls, service NSW, banking and games.
"I've actually got a client who will be using it to attend a family member's wedding," she said.
"That was due to travelling interstate ... they didn't want to risk their health, they didn't want to get caught anywhere.
"They thought they'd just have to miss out, so [the iPad] was a big deal."
Ms Parker said the iPads connected the seniors not just through conversations, but through giving them an understanding of something which was common knowledge for others - a part of society they'd been "kept out of".
"It gave them a better understanding and a bit more confidence with their own family, because they knew what they were talking about or they had an idea," she said.
"[Before] if the family member mentioned an app ... to them what is that? They might just overhear it at a visit, but it meant nothing to them."
Ms Parker said she thought the program should be extended.
"It's ten years overdue," she said.
"There's a lot of people who haven't even touched your basic computer and, unfortunately, the world is changing on them and they've been left behind."
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She said she didn't realise the limited access many elderly people had to technology.
"There's so many people out there who don't have that access or who can't afford it either, it's a lot more expensive and a lot of them are on a pension.
"Where we are, out rural ... service is another big big deal.
"Depending on where we go, there would be some participants, if they did apply, who couldn't actually get the access because of the limited service."
Another participant, Holbrook's Gai Langford, said she was initially reluctant to join the program.
"I'm a bit worried about [the iPads]," she said.
"It's quite scary, too. If you haven't touched anything like it for a long time everything is so different and there's so much more that you can get yourself into that you wouldn't dream of doing years ago."
But now, Mrs Langford loves the iPad.
"It's great, I don't have to move. I sit in my chair with my feet up," she said.
She said she mostly uses it to get more in-depth news and weather, but is also planning on joining the local library so she can download eBooks.
"And I play mah-jong," she said.
Mrs Langford said the iPad was useful for life in general, even without being in lockdown.
"It's very handy," she said.
"It makes life easier for a lot of things."
She said the project was a great idea.
"I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone else, to anyone stuck in the house," she said.
"Other than [my husband] being here I could go days without speaking to anybody.
"You can keep in touch with the outside world without actually having to go out into it, and I think that's a lot easier for a lot of people, because there must be an awful lot of people that are in houses that never go out.
"So they can learn from these, they can keep in touch with what's going on with the world and they don't sit there and do nothing all day."
Ten seniors from around Holbrook, Culcairn and Walla participated in the project; three supplied their own iPads.
They project was run by the Meals on Wheels Holbrook and Walla using federal government COVID-19 emergency funding.
Due to the program's success, Meals on Wheels plans to run it again later on if they can get more funding.
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