In 2019, CTN received a grant from Metta Fund to provide digital skills training and tablets to monolingual seniors in San Francisco’s Sunset District. This new program, called Sunset Tech Connect, would pursue Metta Fund’s mission to reduce isolation and loneliness for older adults by leveraging technology as a form of connection.
Throughout the year, CTN staff worked with small groups of English-, Cantonese-, and Mandarin-speaking learners. A total of eight sessions were offered at Sunset Beacon Neighborhood Center and the San Francisco Public library. By October, 48 older adults graduated from this 12-week training program and took home a Samsung Galaxy tablet. The program’s success led Metta Fund to provide an initial grant to continue supporting the program for two years.
In March of 2020, we were ready to kick off the next round of classes. Of course, March didn’t turn out quite as planned for anyone. The pandemic caused both Sunset locations to halt in-person activities indefinitely. Uncertain of when we could return, Metta Fund agreed to modify our initial plan to accommodate remote instruction. Soon we began training the 39 learners who originally signed up for the Sunset Tech Connect program through our virtual training program, Home Connect.
Fast forward to over a year later, we finally returned to in-person instruction in October 2021 at the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center. CTN’s Sabrina Tam and Patrick Qiu worked with a group of six Cantonese-speaking older adult learners. Every week, they met for an hour session over 12 weeks. Upon completing the full three months of training, each learner was awarded an Android tablet to keep.
Since many of the Sunset learners were beginners, initial classes covered basic navigation of the tablet, Google search, email, online safety, and downloading apps. Beyond the basics, the class also taught learners how to use more specialized apps such as Nextbus, Adobe scan, and Google Translate. In Patrick’s first in-person classes taught with CTN, he found it much easier to form genuine relationships with his learners. “In-person training provides the opportunities for more interactions between trainers and learners,” he reflects. “As a trainer, I can figure out the learners’ difficulties immediately by observing. It’s very important because some learners can’t express ideas or feelings well.”
After the new year, CTN will wrap up the Sunset Tech Connect program with one more in-person class. Many thanks to Metta Fund and the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center for making this program possible!