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College Kids Collect Devices for Elderly to Attend Virtual Appointments

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Lia Rubel
  • Lia Rubel

A college student from Barre is leading a local drive to help bridge the digital divide for elderly and low-income Vermonters.

Lia Rubel is among a network of young adults across the country that is collecting computers, tablets, cellphones and other camera-equipped smart devices so that those in need can access virtual medical care. Started by students at Yale University, TeleHealth Access for Seniors is a federally registered 501c3 nonprofit that's raised tens of thousands of dollars and collected more than 1,000 devices since its founding in March.

That's when doctors and medical providers began conducting more appointments online to avoid in-person interactions that could spread the coronavirus. Those especially at risk were the elderly, who some doctors found did not have access to the devices needed for remote appointments, Rubel said.

Rubel, a rising sophomore at Emory University, has been home since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the Atlanta college's campus, and she got involved in the effort early on. She's recruited eight other young Vermonters and has been soliciting donations on social media and from Rotary clubs, friends and family. 

"It has been incredible just being there from the start and seeing how quickly we've grown," Rubel, 18, said. "And to see how excited so many students around the country are about getting involved."

Thus far, the local group has collected and delivered 24 devices to the White River Junction VA Medical Center. They're working to donate at least 100 by the end of the summer. The group also offers recipients free virtual tech support and printed guides that explain how to set up the devices, Rubel said.

"It has truly empowered patients to stay at home ... and [the devices] just give them that peace of mind knowing that they can continue to receive care but stay safe from COVID-19 infection," Rubel said.

To donate a device or cash, visit telehealthforseniors.org.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Tele-Help"

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