Addressing the Digital Divide Among Older Adults: Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly

Host Organization: Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE)-Boston

Program: CitySites and Digital Dividends Program

Description: Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE)-Boston has been serving low-income older adults in Boston since 1979 by providing social programs in public/affordable housing, senior centers, adult day programs, and long-term care communities. LBFE-Boston launched its first intergenerational program in 2015, CitySites. This partnership with service-learning and community-engagement programs at colleges and universities offers weekly opportunities to bring younger and older people together.

LBFE is also launching the Digital Dividends Program in Fall 2021 in partnership with service-learning and community-engagement programs at colleges and universities. The program will offer weekly intergenerational tech training and support in public and affordable senior housing. Digital Dividends has received funding through federal Title III funds for devices through the City of Boston’s Age Strong Commission, as well as through one of LBFE’s university partnerships.

Resource Requirements: Older Digital Dividends program participants will receive a Chromebook and hotspot, and LBFE covers the cost of internet connectivity for the duration of the program.

Advice to Other Programs: “Being a new tech user is like learning a new language. It can be intimidating, and sometimes adult learners find it hard to say, ‘I don’t know how.’ Creating a safe and welcoming environment goes a long way, and adding an intergenerational component can help lessen anxiety. Bringing digital natives and digital immigrants together makes learning tech fun, and makes technology something to share, rather than something to avoid.”

Quotes from Program Participants:

  • “I am a new user of this phone and had it for only two months. I could hardly do anything with it. But the students here encouraged me to ask questions, and when I came back and forgot something I just asked them again and am learning slowly.”
  • “I really appreciate the time that you’ve given us. I hope that you’ve learned something about how incredibly important technology is to my generation as well as yours. So thank you for everything you’ve done. And your patience! Your patience with us has been a gift.”

Contact Information: Cynthia Wilkerson, Program Director, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, cwilkerson.bos@littlebrothers.org