Tech Pals provides free support to older adults during pandemic

Two months ago, Joshua Merriman and Leah Baum were paving a path to tech education for seniors with their start-up, nonprofit organization Tech Pals. When retirement homes closed their doors in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, Tech Pals shifted its workshops to virtual.

Tech Pals is pairing volunteers with seniors who want to learn more about technology, giving them someone to talk to and a chance to learn something new for free. Seniors who don’t know much about a specific area of technology — such as how to use Zoom, a Macbook or an iPhone — are matched with a millennial who is well-versed in that area. Tech Pals is looking for tech-savvy volunteers along the Front Range to tutor seniors over the phone and via video chat services.

“People that don’t know how to get access to video chat may feel isolated or bored,” Baum said. “Showing them how to get groceries delivered is something we can do to help them stay safe.”

Tech Pals also is selling Chromebooks to low-income seniors that may have outdated devices. The Chromebooks come with GoogleDuo pre-installed, and Tech Pals uses them in the workshops to introduce seniors to Zoom and a variety of library books.

“We want to give people access to as much tech as possible,” Baum said.

Tech Pals teamed up with Blaine Matlock, a local 3D-printing hobbyist, to make face shields for at-risk individuals and healthcare workers. For every three face shields sold, the company will donate one to a local hospital, Baum said.

In addition to the printer he built for Tech Pals, Matlock is printing face shields and donating all of them to local hospitals. By using multiple printers and large nozzles, Matlock said he is able to print one face shield in 53 minutes, when it takes all the other printers with small nozzles three and a half hours to make one.

“Once I found out how slowly everyone else was doing it, I had a lightbulb moment. I can do something that nobody else can do,” Matlock said.

Matlock hopes to buy more 3D printers so he can make face shields faster. Anyone interested in funding his efforts can make a donation on his website. Matlock is also making mask buckles and shields for Make4Covid, a Colorado coalition that is 3D printing much-needed equipment for medical workers and first responders. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can do so on their website.

For Merriman and Baum, the chance to offer another layer of protection to medical workers and to offer some companionship to isolated seniors has been gratifying, Merriman said. Anyone interested in helping their efforts can visit their website or email them at [email protected]

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