With in-person gatherings risky for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guilherme Gagantini (photo), 80, created an online bingo game called Pandebingo for them to socialize safely online.

Prior to the pandemic, seniors living in the seaside city of Santos, São Paulo enjoyed regular in-person opportunities to meet. “We had an event in February, then the pandemic hit,” Guilherme said. “We lost our opportunity to get together.” Due to social distancing measures, he stayed at home every day and stopped walking his dog and meeting his friends. “I lost all motivation”, he lamented.

One day in June, recalling rainy seasons with his grandparents, Guilherme had the idea to gather friends virtually to play an online bingo game with prizes donated by “divertinautas” (their name for older users that access the website). He added to Divertidosos (Fun seniors), a website he built with web designer Monika Dunko after taking an IT class in his early 70s.

“This solution enabled us to get together to socialize because everybody was feeling the same: missing their friends dearly,” explains Monika. She said that social distancing has had a clear impact on the seniors’ lives, “Because they can barely leave their houses, many of them became depressed,” she said.

According to Guilherme, more than 50 people participate in the game. “It’s a tremendous success! When we distribute the prizes, we bring such joy,” he said. The prizes are delivered to the winner’s house following safety and good hygiene recommendations.

Fighting Loneliness

“I don’t even like bingo,” said retired Brazilian teacher Jurema do Amaral Castro. She was convinced to play the ga-me after donating some of her crafts to be given as prizes. She ended up winning several prizes herself and since then, has taken part in all of the bingo matches.

“It’s good because you see a friend whom you have not been able to meet for a long time. Even if the friend wins, you become happy. It’s fabulous energy,” she said. Now, Jurema and her aunt, aged 87, play bingo with the group every Saturday.

“It’s a very good initiative,” exclaimed Jurema. She has five grandchildren and uses the internet to stay in touch with them. “I talk to other people often, as I have children and grandchildren. For those who don’t have a family, Divertidosos is everything to them,” she said.

UN Report on Digital Innovation

In May, the United Nations launched a policy brief with recommendations to protect older persons during the pandemic. According to the report, digital technology must be improved to mitigate restrictions on movement that can disrupt essential care, support and social inclusion for older persons.

“This is vital for older people who may face great suffering and isolation while under lockdowns and other restrictions,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Source: United Nations