During the community outreach event at the Village of Allapattah YMCA Family Center, Cristy Castaneda, Simply Healthcare’s Senior Director of Marketing and Community Outreach (center) delivered a symbolic check with her company’s generous $150,000 donation to United HomeCare®’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Carlos L. Martinez. In this photo, members of the Simply and UHC teams are joined by residents of the Village of Allapattah who later that morning received AVUS Connect® pre-programmed digital tablets.


By: Rebeca C. Trujillo


In an era dominated by rapid technological advancements and a digital landscape that often overwhelms us, the communication needs of senior adults have taken center stage as a crucial and often overlooked aspect of their overall well-being.

As our society in general evolves towards full connectivity, it behooves us to first recognize and then address the unique challenges faced by our elders in staying connected with their loved ones, accessing vital information, and navigating the intricacies of modern communication platforms.

Recently, two leading South Florida-based senior care providers came together to do precisely that. Simply Healthcare (SH), a Florida-licensed health maintenance organization (HMO), joined forces with United HomeCare® (UHC), a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and licensed provider of comprehensive home care services for hom

ebound older adults, and its student-led, intergenerational senior assurance program, AVUS Connect® and AVUS Tech Pals® joined forces to tackle senior adults’ communication needs, exploring the ways in which technology, community support, and personalized approaches can contribute to foster meaningful connection and enhance the quality of life

 for this often overlooked and underestimated segment of the population.


During a special community outreach breakfast held at the Village of Allapattah YMCA Family Center, Simply Healthcare announced its support for UHC’s AVUS Connect® and AVUS Tech Pals® project with a symbolic check for $150,000. These funds are earmarked for the purchase and distribution of digital handheld devices specifically designed for older adults.

The Samsung 4G tablets work with the easy-to-use, senior-oriented platform named Claris Companion, which includes Wi-Fi, enabling the user to safely access the internet to:

  • Communicate with family, friends, caregivers, healthcare providers, and others on a secure contact list, via email, text messaging and one-touch video calls.
  • Engage in their favorite pastimes and hobbies, such as
    • Play online games;
    • Watch videos, news and weather reports;
    • Visit websites to read articles and books; or
    • Research topics of interest.
  • Manage daily activities like:
    • Store photos;
    • Maintain a calendar of significant dates and appointments;
    • Get medication reminders;
    • Follow exercise classes;
    • Participate in wellness surveys;
    • Check-in with caregivers and
    • healthcare providers;
    • Receive relevant alerts and more.


Most importantly, explains Blanca Ceballos, UHC’s Community Relations Manager and AVUS Connect  mentor, is the level of security that the system provides.

“That is everyone’s major concern when dealing with the internet today,” she says, “but these devices have enhanced security measures that not only block spam, scams and viruses, but also help the users and their families or caregivers retain control over who or what can be accessed through the device.

“To maintain this safe environment, the patient can communicate solely with people on his/her contact list,” Ceballos adds. “And in turn, designated family members or caregivers can remotely manage and monitor the tablet’s activity from anywhere via their own mobile devices and the ‘family console’ app by Claris Companion.”

Blanca Ceballos added that, while operating the device will likely take some light training —and UHC/AVUS Connect® and AVUS Tech Pals® volunteers will be on hand to help— most seniors take to the tablets like “ducks to water,” especially after they discover what they can do with it.

Claris Companion has an excellent support service as well.



Carlos L. Martinez, President and CEO of United HomeCare®, voiced his company’s commitment to the AVUS Connect senior tablet initiative during the event.

“In UHC’s 50-year history, our home health aides, nurses and supervisors have witnessed the effect that loneliness and isolation have on our elderly patients, which are extremely detrimental to their mental and physical wellbeing. The UHC teams work on a daily basis to help our community’s seniors live and thrive at home. We see the impact these devices have on their lives! The improvement is visible from Day 1. These tangible, measurable results only strengthen our resolve and commitment to this program.”

Simply Healthcare’s generous donation will expand the senior tablet project in Miami-Dade County beyond its current phase with funding hundreds of devices in addition to the training and continued support efforts provided by AVUS Connect®, its student-led group of volunteers, and AVUS Tech Pals®.

Alina Palenzuela, UHC’s Chief Marketing and Volunteer Engagement Officer, described the genesis of the program: “It was during the 2020 COVID pandemic, as our teams were caring for patients despite the shutdown, that we noticed the progressive damage that isolation measures were causing among the elderly.”

UHC then introduced the use of hand-held tablets to encourage and facilitate increased communications with patients. The initial phase was modest, yet immensely successful.

“We are firm believers in the power that technology has to connect our patients with the outside world, especially with our amazing home health aides and volunteers because we have been witnessing its confidence- and health-boosting influence for the last three years!”

United HomeCare® has developed the project with strategic support from two important partners:

  • Community Care Corps (C3), a national program that fosters innovative local models in which volunteers provide non-medical assistance to family caregivers, older adults, or adults with disabilities in order to maintain their independence; and
  • the Alliance for Aging, a private, not-for-profit agency —designated by the State of Florida as the Area Agency on Aging for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties— that helps older adults and individuals with disabilities stay at home and avoid placement in nursing homes.



Yet while the tablets certainly expand seniors’ interactivity with the world beyond their homes, it is important to highlight the work done by a corps of volunteers: the young AVUS Connect® crew, local high school students who enthusiastically contribute long hours to establish and strengthen intergenerational ties —friendships, really— with elderly patients, further broadening their social horizons, and its equally altruistic and as the name states, technologically-inclined AVUS Tech Pals®, a program funded by National Community Care Corps.

For more information, please contact UHC at (305) 716-0710, customercare@unitedhomecare.com. We also invite you to visit UnitedHomeCare.com and AvusConnect.org

To find out more about volunteering with AVUS Connect® and/or AVUS Tech Pals®, please write volunteer@avusconnect.org



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend