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Power Up at New Charging Station for Vets

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The Atlanta Vet Center is the first veterans facility in the country to test out the charging station as part of AARP’s veteran outreach.
Photo by AARP Georgia

Veterans with appointments at the Atlanta Vet Center in College Park don’t have to worry if their phones are running low on juice. Thanks to AARP, there’s a portable charging station in the center’s waiting area.

While they’re plugged in, they can also use its touch screen to pick up tips on avoiding scams and improving their health, as well as learn about resources for veterans and their caregivers.

“Everyone can benefit from it,” said Nona Franklin, director of the center, which currently provides counseling services to some 550 veterans and their families.

Charging stations make for captive audiences.

“Many younger veterans may not be as aware of the help that is out there,” Franklin said. “For older veterans, it could help them recognize that technology can be their friend.”

The Atlanta Vet Center is the first veterans facility in the country to test out the charging station as part of AARP’s national effort to better connect with ex-service members. If it’s a success, the organization may expand the pilot to other veterans facilities.

Handy and helpful

AARP’s Georgia office is also stepping up its outreach to the state’s 697,000 vets.

“The idea is to look at using mobile-device charging stations as a way to reach audiences that we may not always have an opportunity to reach in person,” said Joseph Jones, an AARP senior adviser for planning and performance analysis.

The association has contracted with Power Tower to provide the station and to customize its content. The station’s touchscreen monitor features as its home page AARP’s website for veterans, military members and their families.

Users can navigate to other topics, including information about fraud that targets veterans and how to report it.

Additionally, they can access AARP’s 44-page Military Caregiving Guide for Veterans, Service Members and Their Families and even check the weather.

Over the coming months, AARP will be looking at how veterans are engaging with the content, Jones said. “Is it providing value? Is this a concept we would want other states to consider?”

Selecting a metro Atlanta facility as the initial pilot made sense, he said. “Atlanta is a particular focal community for us, given the number of veterans, the diversity and the trends of the growing aging population.”

Anthony G. Cooper, chief of voluntary service at the Atlanta VA Health Care System, is all for expanding the pilot to even more Atlanta-area facilities. The system has more than 1.5 million patient visits a year at its 15 Georgia sites.

Just being able to charge your phone is a tremendous help in and of itself, Cooper said.

When dealing with stressful health care situations, the last thing many people think of is their charger.

“Here in metro Atlanta, with our traffic, your commute could be well over an hour, and your phone could go dead,” he noted.

Cellphones are more than just something to talk on; they are a critical health care tool.

“We do a lot of our communications with vets by phone,” Cooper said.

“A cellphone provides access to care. That is why our goal is to expand the charging stations to our entire health network.”

Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.

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