The Times of Israel | To fight viral blues, elderly in former Soviet bloc prescribed tablet computers

Irina Krivulya, 67, is alone. She has no children and no family left in her mid-sized Ukrainian town of Khmelnytskyi. Her sister died a year ago, her brother is also gone. Until recently, one of her main social circles was the local Jewish community – eight elderly Jewish women who used to gather in her one-room apartment every few weeks to drink tea and socialize.

Krivulya’s modest social life was sponsored by a program called Warm Home, which is supported by the local chapter of Hesed, a Jewish welfare center. But now, because of the COVID-19 isolation guidelines, no one is coming to visit.

“We haven’t gotten together because of the situation; everyone is trying to be careful,” Krivulya said. “The last time we saw each other was about three months ago.”

Krivulya’s only link to the outside world is her old cell phone, which barely works. All it can do is make calls, said Krivulya, who has never used a computer in her life.

But that is about to change, because she and hopefully dozens of other elderly are set to receive a free tablet computer with internet service, courtesy of Ukraine’s Jewish community.

The tablets are coming thanks to an initiative launched by the Leadership Alumni Programs (LAP), a group of young adults who attended programs run by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in the former Soviet Union. LAP is now trying to raise $12,000 to purchase 40 tablets for isolated Jewish seniors in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia.