Addressing the Digital Divide Among Older Adults: Northampton Senior Services

Host Organization: Northampton Senior Services

Program: Tech Loan and Training Program

Description: Prior to the pandemic, Northampton Senior Services began a check out program of ChromeBooks onsite and offered Tech Workshops on various topics for all levels of users. When the pandemic started, they moved their programs online and received a $10,000 donation around the same time they applied for funding for starting a Tech Loan Program. They hired a contractor for 10 hours a week to work with older adults 1:1 outside and sometimes in their homes, to learn how to use iPads and Amazon Fire Tablets. The training was then moved indoors for winter with parameters set up for training under social distancing and masking requirements. The program is open to all members of the Senior Center, with no income qualifications or restrictions.

Resource Requirements: iPads and Chromebooks are purchased with internet included (i.e., SIM card-enabled) which costs approximately $330-360 per internet-enabled device. Applications and settings set for accessibility are installed after purchase by the city IT Department, and protective cases, carrying bags, and charging cords are assigned to each device. Technology intake forms and loan agreements are filled out for each user, and a calendar is made for scheduling training sessions and tracking loaner devices.

Quotes from Program Participants:

  • “When I started the program, I was basically computer illiterate…I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on! The instructor was very patient with me and provided a lot of guidance and encouragement. I had never used the internet and was given assistance to get access and taught the fundamentals. Even though I’m still no expert, I feel much more comfortable with using a computer and have my notes and tutorials to help me navigate.”
  • “The instructor was such a patient and good teacher. She made a very stressful situation much less stressful. I did not feel overwhelmed when trying to learn new information. I now live in a retirement community and I cannot tell you how many people are uncomfortable with technology and have no one to assist them. This is exactly the kind of program they need.”

Contact Information: Marie Westburg, Director of Northampton Senior Services, mwestburg@northamptonma.gov