Tech Savvy Seniors Project Receives Digital Literacy Grant
Improving equitable access to technology is an essential goal for the Council on Aging. According to a 2020 Alliance for Digital Equity survey, approximately 22 percent of Greenfield households do not have a home computer. In addition, many older adults who own a computer cannot meet minimum software requirements because they have an outdated model.
For seniors who possess modern technology, many are not trained on the internet's intricacies. The lack of formal education on the ever-changing digital landscape leaves many older adults susceptible to phishing and other fraudulent computer activities.
The Tech Savvy Seniors project offers a multi-faceted approach to enhancing digital literacy for older adults. Through the grant, the Council on Aging will purchase 50 iPad tablets that include keyboard and trackpad attachments. These devices are user-friendly and feature a range of built-in assistive technology for users who may have hearing, vision and physical/motor challenges. Some iPads will remain at the Greenfield Senior Center at the John Zon Community Center for seniors to engage with during their visit at no expense. Wi-Fi access also remains free at the John Zon.
The Council on Aging will assign 40 to 50 of the purchased iPads for seniors to participate in educational outreach after they complete a digital equity intake form. The free informational component is provided through Greenfield Community College's Cyber-Seniors program, which has aided around 100 seniors via hands-on education training since its debut in 2021. Associate Dean of Community Engagement Judy Raper will be operating workshops for iPad recipients that allow them to learn how to use the device and protect their privacy/personal information. It is intended for seniors to keep the iPad devices after completing the courses.
Participants from the Tech Savvy Seniors program will learn essential computer skills and terminology, including assistance with hardware, software, social media use, internet browsing, privacy/cybersecurity and other digital literacy topics.
A portion of the grant funding will allow Greenfield Community College to subcontract a part-time Cyber-Senior Regional Coordinator. The coordinator will take inquiries from interested seniors, track appointments and session topics, host information sessions about the program and arrange the hiring of Cyber Senior Mentors. Cyber Senior Mentors work with older adults one on one to help them navigate technology. These appointments are in person. They will take place at Greenfield Community College, the Jon Zon Center and the Franklin County YMCA.Greenfield Community College will also be offering free computer classes for older adults. The first one begins Friday, September 8 from 12 – 2 p.m. People can register on the Greenfield Community College website. There will be more workshops offered later this fall and in the spring.
The Greenfield Public Library will host some of the informational workshops in its state-of-the-art meeting rooms. The library also operates a one-on-one technology help program that allows people to schedule appointments to receive hands-on assistance from library staff. Patrons can additionally check out a mobile hotspot to use at home for no charge.
GCET will also promote the Affordable Connectivity Program for participating older adults. This program provides eligible customers a credit toward internet and mobile services.
"Tech Savvy Seniors is a long-time goal coming to fruition,” said Council on Aging Director Hope Macary. “I've been keenly interested in technology since attending nursing school at GCC, where I gained tech skills and then served as a computer tutor as an adult learner. I'm thrilled to be partnering with my alma mater on this project to help bridge the digital divide by providing devices and ongoing educational support to our
"Over the past several years I have become increasingly aware of the difference that digital literacy skills can make in the quality of life for older adults,” said Greenfield Community College Associate Dean of Community Engagement Judy Raper. “I am thrilled that we will be able to enhance our current offerings to increase support for this population around navigating technology. Part of the role of technology is developing the capacity to connect. For many older adults, this is essential to their well-being, and this grant will help us support them in developing the necessary skills to do so."
To learn more about the Greenfield Council on Aging, visit https://greenfield-ma.gov/departments/council_on_aging_(senior_center)/index.php.
For more information about Greenfield Community College’s community engagement projects, visit https://engage.gcc.mass.edu/.