“Senior Connect” program launches to provide digital literacy and equity for older adults in Central Texas

Staff Reports

Austin, TX – Nearly 45% of Texans over the age of 65 lack home broadband internet. Access to the internet has been identified as a critical quality of life issue for older adults that reduces social isolation, improves health and even financial stability. Therefore, Community Tech Network (CTN) is launching a new pilot program, Senior Connect – developed in partnership with AGE of Central Texas and Senior Access – to help older adults in Central Texas utilize the internet effectively.

Besides helping qualified older adults obtain low-cost broadband internet, the pilot program provides a free pre-configured tablet and up to 3 months of remote digital literacy training. The program will also educate the most vulnerable on:

  • internet safety and how to avoid digital scams
  • physician and medical provider video visits to improve access to care
  • staying digitally connected with friends/family, which reduces isolation and depression
  • ordering medication or grocery deliveries

Senior Connect partners with area agencies to reduce social isolation for older adults currently without the digital skills and necessary technology to use and thrive in an increasingly online environment.  AGE of Central Texas is one of are non-profit agencies that jumped on board for the new program.

Through AGE’s Computer Lab, technology training was already being provided to an older adult population that was new to technology or looking for advanced learning on their digital device.  Partnering with the Senior Connect program was a natural extension of AGE’s established programming.

“There is nothing better than changing a life by placing technology in the hands of an older adult,” says Suzanne Anderson, Executive Director of AGE of Central Texas.  “Because social isolation has dramatic health implications, opening the door to connections through online access makes a difference to the day-to-day quality of life for that older adult.”

The Senior Connect program is free to partner agencies and aims to serve hundreds of older adults throughout Central Texas. Funding for the program is provided by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, and the City of Austin Grants for Opportunity Program (GTOPs).

Since 2008, CTN has provided digital literacy training to adults in public libraries, low-income housing developments, senior centers, schools, and social service agencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CTN expanded its programs and curriculum to provide training remotely. CTN then developed a training for trainers and made curriculum available to partner agencies. This is the model utilized by Senior Connect, which is co-managed by AGE of Central Texas.

CTN is looking for other partners in Texas interested in addressing the social isolation experienced by their older adult clients.

For more information on Community Tech Network, visit: https://www.communitytechnetwork.org/

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