Residents in seven Merrill Gardens Senior Living communities in Washington state are connecting with friends and family during the pandemic with a donation of 1,000 Google Nest Hub Max devices.

Loree Wagner, a spokesperson for the R.D. Merrill Company, told McKnight’s Senior Living that Google programmed the “smart display” devices just for its residents after a member of the organization’s senior leadership team who knows someone with a connection to Google was able to secure the donation of devices.

Google is piloting a simplified interface with less tech-savvy users by providing residents access to a pre-loaded shortlist of contacts, allowing video calls with family and friends during COVID-19 social distancing requirements. There also are ‘What can you do?” cards that act as shortcuts for accessing weather reports, setting alarms or playing music.

“It’s important for seniors’ mental and emotional health to stay connected, and social isolation during this quarantine makes doing that especially hard,” Google’s Molly McHugh-Johnson said Monday in a post.

Devices were installed in assisted living and independent living apartments at Merrill Gardens in Kirkland in the past week, with plans to bring them to Merrill Gardens at Auburn, Merrill Gardens at Burien, Merrill Gardens at Renton Centre, Merrill Gardens at Tacoma, and Merrill Gardens at The University and Merrill Gardens at Ballard, both in Seattle, according to Wagner, who handles public relations and corporate communications for the R.D Merrill Company.

Bob and Eleanor Marum, who reside at Merrill Gardens in Kirkland, said they’ve been using the device for about a week and “love it.”

Eleanor Marum said they’ve used the Nest Hub Max to call their three daughters, watch the New York Metropolitan Opera on YouTube and listen to music.

“We enjoy the jokes,” she said. “We ask about the weather all over the country and asked for the spelling of certain words.”

Bob Marum said he and his wife are “trailblazers,” as they were the first in their building to use the device. They also have an iPad and a smartphone, but they prefer the Nest Hub Max.

“It’s very convenient,” he said. “It has one more dimension than Alexa. Not only that, it has other features where it’s so much easier to find out whatever we want to know.”

Nest Hub Max with the Google Assistant has a 10-inch HD screen and stereo speakers. And users need to create a Google Duo account to use the devices. The devices are managed on Nest’s fleet management system and run in a “signed out” mode, meaning no audio is stored and all activity is anonymous.

Merrill Gardens has 33 communities in eight states offering independent living, assisted living and memory care, with another eight communities in development.