Digital technology has become an integral part of what it means to fully participate in modern society. While most of us already struggle to keep up with advancing technology and tech trends, stop for minute and think how difficult it must be for older adults in our society. Their lack of understanding for the digital world seems to be exacerbating an already dominant trend of isolation and loneliness among the elderly population. The shift in the ageing composition of the population means that our society has the highest number of seniors. As such, it has never been more important to provide them with better services and education to ensure a balanced quality of life and improved productivity for all.
To combat this current setback, a nonprofit in San Francisco is focused on providing digital literacy to older adults and has launched a new initiative to bring internet, technology and training into the homes of seniors who need it the most.
Community Tech Network launched its new program called Home Connect — an initiative that provides free tablets, three months of internet and virtual training in eight different languages to older vulnerable adults in San Francisco who live alone.
Director and co-founder Kami Griffiths who has worked in the public sector for over 15 years has created the Home Connect program in just a few weeks to provide digital literacy. Recognizing the limiting nature of the digital divide, Griffiths felt she had to take action.
“Once our partners, mostly senior centers and housing developments closed due to COVID-19 it was clear we needed to do something to help seniors get connected at home,” Griffiths said.
“I sent my initial idea pitch to the SF Department of Disability and Aging Services to get their approval in mid-March and by the beginning of April we were taking referrals from our partners.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, isolated seniors may no longer have access to supportive social services providing meals, transportation and companionship.
Home Connect staff and volunteers remotely train seniors through pre-configured devices to be able to teach them how to access their doctor, learn how to pay utility bills and how to connect with family and friends while remaining isolated.
The communication made possible online is essential for older adults who are homebound, have mobility constraints, who live far away, or have lost a family member they once relied on for social support. Seniors can stay connected and prevent feelings of loneliness – a precursor of other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and dementia – by using messaging platforms, video chat, and social media. Their familiarity with technology will also facilitate the shift in the utility of telemedicine services amid the pandemic and beyond.