According to Pew Research, one-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the internet, and roughly half say they do not have home broadband services. This makes older adults one of the demographics most likely to lack digital access and skills.
For the past 13 years, Community Tech Network has educated older adults to safely and freely navigate the internet. Along the way, we’ve collaborated with community partners to expand our impact and meet the needs of older adults. Today we are excited to celebrate one of our longest-running partnerships, with the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS).
Ten years ago, DAS approached us about a project that would bring computer training to seniors and adults with disabilities throughout San Francisco. The City applied for a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and received $8 million for three years. This grant didn’t just fund work in senior centers; it also funded youth training, workforce development, accessible technology, and more.
Over the course of the grant, CTN provided over 8,500 hours of training support to clients. When its initial funding ended in 2013, the City of San Francisco decided to dedicate general funds to provide continued support in what is now called SF Connected!
Before the pandemic, SF Connected offered free digital literacy classes in senior centers and housing developments to help older adults understand the usefulness of the internet in everyday life. For the last year, the program went virtual, and CTN’s focus went to building the Home Connect program, which addresses the home connectivity and training needs of older adults. We hope that learners move beyond the basics to harness the power of the internet to overcome social isolation, access resources for healthy aging, slow the progress of cognitive impairment, and learn skills to manage personal finances.
Here’s what Paulo Salta of the DAS had to say of our long-standing partnership:
“Ten years ago, SF Connected was launched to ensure older adults and adults with disabilities have access to a world which increasingly operates online. Since 2011, we have opened over 50 computer labs in the community and provided 90,000 hours of digital literacy training. As a result of the SF Connected program people have connected with family and friends across the world, learned new computer skills, and accessed information and resources that have benefited their lives. The 2020 COVID health emergency isolated many in our City and further increased reliance on digital resources. This rapid shift revealed that the digital divide is still very present and even wider for some. We are proud of the work our community based partners like Community Tech Network have done, especially in the past year as they pivoted and mobilized resources to provide training, devices, and internet for individuals who were no longer able to access services in community computer labs. The past ten years has taught us a lot and we look to learn from this experience and use it to strengthen our efforts into the future.”
In the last year, SF Connected has enabled CTN to help over 200 older adults acquire a tablet and access remote digital skills training in multiple languages. We are grateful for the program’s consistent support in equipping the older adult population to feel confident online!