In an effort to combat social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, AgeSpan (formerly Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore) partnered with Fidelity House to launch a digital access program for low-income seniors and individuals of all ages with disabilities. The program opened in summer 2021, providing computer tablets, data plans, and personalized technology training. After only six months in operation, the program has already received referrals for 300 individuals, approximately 25 percent of whom speak a language other than English. During the intake process, AgeSpan asks users about their goals for connectivity. The primary objectives given are access to telehealth, participation in virtual community programming, use of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom for social connectivity, access to news and current events, participation in virtual worship services, access to continuing education, ability to pay bills online, and access to a variety of other services and information. AgeSpan launched the program as a health equity initiative with support from the NiSource Foundation, the community support fund created in response to the Merrimack Valley natural gas disaster of 2018, in partnership with the Essex County Community Foundation. A digital training coordinator assesses the personal needs of each individual entering the program and provides customized skills training to ensure that each participant reaches their individual goals. The individualized attention allows AgeSpan to understand and mitigate any barriers that may prevent participants from succeeding. To date, the oldest participant in the program has been 95 years old. All participants have demonstrated a desire and capacity to utilize technology in ways that would be expected of any other age group.

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