How to make connections: Many seniors want Zoom, email, and the Internet-but they need help

Six months ago, 68-year-old Cindy Sanders (Cindy Sanders) bought a computer so she can learn how to send emails and zoom chat with her great-grandson.

It is still sitting in a box, unopened.

“I don’t know how to set it up or how to get help,” said Sanders, who lives in Philadelphia and was very careful during the coronavirus pandemic.

Like Sanders, millions of senior citizens have regained the motivation to go online and participate in digital products after being kept at home for more than a year, in order to avoid contracting the virus. But many people need help and don’t know where to get it.

recent American Association of Retired Persons SurveyConducted in September and October, highlighting the dilemma. The survey found that older people increased their purchases of technology during the pandemic, but more than half (54%) said they need to better control the equipment they buy. Nearly four in ten people (37%) admit that they have no confidence in using these technologies.

Sanders, a retired hospital operating room attendant, is one of them. “Computers frighten me,” she told me, “but this epidemic made me realize that I must change and overcome it.”

With the help of her daughter, Sanders plans to turn on her new computer and figure out how to use it by looking up information Generation onlineThe Philadelphia organization was established in 1999 to teach seniors about digital devices and browsing the Internet. Sanders recently discovered this through a local senior citizen publication.

Before the pandemic, Generations on Line offered free face-to-face training courses in senior centers, public housing estates, libraries, and retirement centers.When these programs are closed, it creates a Online course For smartphones and tablets, as well as new tutorials on Zoom and telemedicine, as well as “home guidance kits” that help seniors use technology. All of these are free and can be used by people all over the country.

During the pandemic, the demand for Generations on Line services increased tenfold, as many elderly people became dangerously isolated and unable to obtain the services they needed.

Those who have digital devices and know how to use them can perform various activities online: contact family and friends, buy groceries, order prescriptions, attend classes, participate in telemedicine meetings, and make appointments for COVID-19 vaccination. Those who don’t are often overwhelmed-it can have serious consequences.

“I have never described my work as a matter of life and death before,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Alliance for Digital Inclusion, an advocacy group to expand broadband access. “But this is what happened during the pandemic, especially when it comes to vaccines.”

Other organizations specializing in the digital literacy of older people have also seen a surge in interest. Internet seniors, The company matches seniors with high school or college students who serve as technical mentors and has trained more than 10,000 seniors since April 2020, which is three times the average level in the past few years. (Services are free, funded by grants and partnerships with government agencies and non-profit organizations, as are the case for several of the organizations discussed here.)

Seniors who are using digital devices for the first time can call 1-844-217-3057 and receive instruction over the phone until they are satisfied with the online training. Cyber??-Seniors managing director Brenda Rusnak said: “Many organizations distribute tablets to seniors. This is great, but they don’t even understand the basics. This is where we started.” One-on-one tutoring is also provided.

Lyla Panichas, 78, who lives in Potucket, Rhode Island, bought an iPad from a company in Rhode Island three months ago. Digital Plan — one of many local technology plans for the elderly that began during the pandemic. She is getting help from the University of Rhode Island’s Cyber ??Seniors Program, which plans to provide digital training for 200 digiAGE participants in the communities most severely hit by COVID-19 by the end of this year.

“My mentor called me for the first time, I mean, the kids make things so fast. I said, wait a minute. You have a little old lady here. Let me follow you,” Panichal Said. “I couldn’t keep up, I cried in the end.”

However, Panichas persevered, and when her mentor called again next week, she began to “understand things.” Now, she plays games online, plays movies, and holds Zoom parties with her son in Arizona and her sister in Virginia. “It kind of relieved my fear of being isolated,” she told me.

After recently establishing contact with AARP, OATS (Elderly Technical Services) will significantly expand the scope of its digital literacy program. It has opened a national hotline 1-920-666-1959 for those seeking technical support in six cities (New York; Denver; Rockville, Maryland; Plattsburgh, New York; San Antonio, Texas; And Palo Alto, California). Once the pandemic has closed most of the country, all face-to-face courses will be converted to digital programming.

86-year-old Germaine St. John is the former mayor of Laramie, Wyoming. After signing with Senior Planet Colorado during the pandemic, she discovered an online community for seniors and made dear friends. “I have a very good support system in Laramie, but I am very cautious when I go out because I belong to the over 80s,” she told me. “Without these activities, I don’t know what I would do.”

Seniors anywhere in the country can participate in the Senior Planet virtual course for free. (The weekly schedule is available at Through its partnership with AARP, OATS offers another set of popular courses in AARP’s virtual community center. Thousands of elderly people are now participating.

Aging connectionIt is another new OATS program that focuses on getting one million senior citizens online by the end of 2022.

The immediate priority is to educate older people about the government’s new US$32 billion emergency broadband benefit for low-income individuals, funded by the Coronavirus Relief Program and launched last month. This short-term plan offers a monthly discount of US$50 on high-speed Internet services and a one-time discount of up to US$100 on the purchase of a computer or tablet. But the benefits are not automatic.people Must apply To get funding.

Thomas Kamber, executive director of OATS, said: “We call on people over 50 to try the Internet and understand its value.” Nearly 22 million elderly people cannot use high-speed Internet services, mainly because these services are unaffordable or unavailable. January report Co-sponsored by OATS and Humana Foundation (its Aging Connected partner).

Other new companies are also using technology to help the elderly. Cando TechnologyLaunched in February 2019, it works directly with seniors in 32 states and organizations such as libraries, senior centers, and retirement centers.

For various expenses, Candoo Tech provides technical training via telephone or virtual means, and the “technical concierge” provides support as needed, recommends what technology to purchase and helps prepare the equipment out of the box.

Liz Hamburg, President and CEO of Candoo, said: “You can provide seniors with equipment, access to the Internet, and great content, but if they don’t have anyone to show them what to do, it will just sit there.”

Get settingsThe model relies on older people teaching skills to their peers in small interactive courses. Founder and CEO Neil Dsouza stated that it started in February 2020 and focused on technical training, realizing that “fear of technology” is preventing seniors from exploring “the entire online experience world” .

For the elderly who have never used digital devices, retired teachers serve as technical consultants over the phone. “Someone can call [1-888-559-1614] We will guide them through the entire process of downloading the application (usually Zoom) and attending classes,” said Dsouza. GetSetUp provides approximately 80 hours of virtual technical guidance every week.

For more information about technical training for seniors in your area, please contact your local library, senior center, aging department or regional aging agency. In addition, each state has a National Assistive Technology Act training center for the elderly and disabled. These centers allow people to borrow equipment and provide advice on financial assistance. Some people started collecting and distributing used smartphones, tablets and computers during the pandemic.

For information about programs in your area, please visit

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that provides in-depth reports on health issues. Together with policy analysis and voting, KHN is one of the three major operating projects in the United States. KFC (Caesar Family Foundation). KFF is a funded non-profit organization that provides information about health issues to the country.

This story can be republished for free (detail).

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