Broadband and technology allow Hibbing area senior citizens to “age in place”

News from The (Iron Range) Ranger

Access North Center for Independent Living equipped the homes of about 12 senior citizens with new technology that allows them to remain in their homes longer, have added safety features, and be socially connected to family and friends. The outreach was part of Blandin Foundation’s broadband initiative and funded in part by Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation.

For seniors whose failing vision makes it difficult to see the number buttons on a telephone, Echo Show (pictured above) and Alexa gives them voice command capability to dial contacts for them. They can command Alexa to call their health care provider or family member, and Echo Show dials the contact programmed in their phone. With Echo Spot seniors can live video chat with family and friends across the world. Alexa and Alexa Fire allows seniors to command their TVs to turn on or off, adjust the volume and change channels.

Seniors have also been provided Phillips Hue lighting that is controlled by Alexa voice command (pictured). It allows them to safely turn on and off lights using their voice without physically getting up in the dark and risking a trip or fall. Other devices such as a Nest thermostat (pictured below) and Ring doorbell have added extra security and safety in homes. Seniors can control temperature settings in their homes and see on their phone who is at their door before opening it.

“Most seniors prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible and want to avoid unnecessary or premature nursing home placement,” said Don Brunette, Access North executive director. “We used the broadband grant money to provide and install products, services and conveniences to allow them to do so. Some homes received new routers to make their broadband connectivity more robust to support the new devices.”

Access North has a long-term loan library that is stocked with a multitude of technology devices to enhance people’s quality of life and independence in their homes. The equipment may be checked out by seniors and disabled people of any age.

Founded in 1985, Access North serves 10 counties in northeastern Minnesota. Its Hibbing office partnered with Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce and Blandin on the senior technology initiative. The Blandin broadband program aims to advance broadband in northeastern Minnesota rural communities and develop high speed internet that is critical to economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life. Spurring access to broadband and increasing the number and sophistication of users across the region can help future developments and investments into broadband.

“The grant allowed us to meet the needs of seniors in order for them to remain in their homes. Everyone in our society is facing these same needs right now during the pandemic and Shelter in Place order,” said Brunette. “We see now more than ever how robust broadband and technology enable our culture and all members to connect to work, school, family and friends.”

This entry was posted in Broadband Applications, Healthcare, IRBC, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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