Dominic Bitzan and Heidi Fyten, with the donated iPads.

Isolation is a concern among senior living facilities. Even before COVID-19, many seniors had trouble connecting with their loved ones – with family members and friends living far away and technology a little elusive for some residents.

Dominic Bitzan wanted to do something to help them.

Working with BeeHive Homes of Elk River, a senior living home, Bitzan researched a way for residents to maintain contact with their family through applications like Zoom and Google Meets.

As a high school senior at Spectrum High School in Elk River, he was working on his senior capstone project. He knew he could leverage the technology to help seniors stay in touch with their families, but he needed the hardware to make it happen. That brought him to Great River Energy. Great River Energy’s information technology division was able to donate 10 iPads to Bitzan in October.

“Great River Energy’s donation is very much appreciated, and it will be remembered for years to come,” Bitzan said. “This legacy will change not only the lives of current residents and their families, but also future residents and their families. Simple games, music, photo and video applications will provide hours of fun for the residents.”

Bitzan created a folder of easy applications and website links on each iPad for caregivers and families and gave the enhanced iPads to BeeHive Homes in December.

Dominic’s dad, Brad Bitzan, is Great River Energy’s senior operations analyst and said Beehive residents are using the iPads on a daily basis and loving them.

“They are using them not only for activities and connecting with family over Zoom, but they mirror the iPads to the big screen TV in the living area for group Zoom calls with BeeHive Homes of Maple Grove and exercise on YouTube,” he said.

Heidi Fyten, activities department manager at BeeHive Homes of Elk River, said it’s hard to express in words the appreciation she feels for the donation and the people who made it happen.

“I’m just so grateful,” she said. “It’s awesome to have people out there like that.”

Besides using the iPads for things like Zoom calls with families and playing games like Solitaire, Fyten sees many other ways that they can enhance residents’ lives.

“There’s so much they can do that will be beneficial,” she said.

The Great River Energy iPads had become obsolete and could no longer run certain applications securely and are no longer supported by Apple.

“These iPads could work for the limited needs of the residents,” said Desiree van Sytzama, leader, Great River Energy’s service desk. “They were all at the end of their Great River Energy life. We could no longer use them for business reasons as they were no longer supported by Apple with critical upgrades for cybersecurity and patching.”

Now, thanks to a high school senior and Great River Energy, BeeHive residents have a way to stay connected while they’re apart.

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