Monday December 28, 1998

Technology allows Candian Seniors to meet French kids

by Jennifer Campbell


Ottawa site audience, Centre d'accueil Champlain

Puppet Show, from the Centre Therapeutique de Margency Hospital near Paris, FranceOttawa site audience, Centre d'accueil Champlain as seen by Ottawa audience via Video Conference

With the help of sophisticated video-conferencing equipment, young and old alike were linked up to spend a few hours together on Christmas Eve. Usually limited to board rooms and high-tech conferences, there is little known about how this technology can facilitate social interactions. To find out, employees and volunteers of PACE 2000 International Foundation, a group that promotes independence in seniors, and residents, employees and volunteers of Vanier senior's home Centre d'accueil Champlain, worked with counterparts at the Centre Thérapeutique de Margency, a hospital for sick children in France, to test the technology's ability to unite two generations of people
who can't go home for Christmas.

For its part, the French hospital presented a puppet show by puppeteer Alissa Ouechni, who just so happens to be the daughter of Ottawa event organizer and president of PACE 2000, Dr.Marie Madeleine Bernard. In Ottawa, the shared entertainment consisted of the Mostly Bows fiddle orchestra and folk dancing.

In addition to the entertainment, seniors and sick children were able to talk through the screen, each being able to see what the other was doing. Dr. Bernard said many of the sick children have grown up in the French hospital and they get very nervous when they leave it. "With video-conferencing, this brings the world to them," she said.

When videographers got one particular little boy, still hooked up to an IV, on the screen, he started waving frantically- his smile bubbling over to all the seniors in the Ottawa residence. One seniors, Jeanne Hedge, who has lived in the home for eight years, said she was so excited her heart was beating fast.

"I'm so happy, I'm filled with joy inside," she said, adding that if PACE 2000 organizes another event, they can count on her being there. Rodolphe Bordeleau, 81, who lives at the home, said he looks forward to linking up with other area nursing homes and talking to other area seniors. In short, he wants to use avant-garde technology to talk to others about the good old days.

Dominique Jouishomme, who brought her young son and daughter, came simply to feel closer to France, the native land she left when she moved to Canada eight years ago. Her son brought home an annoucement of the event from his school. "It's a nice project," she said.

Dr Bernard said she was pleased whit the event."The technology is not perfect, but it's good to prepare the market and see what potential there is."


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