Last spring, we officially launched our Texas-based program Senior Connect — a collaboration between Senior Access, AGE of Central Texas, and CTN. Replicating nearly all aspects of our Home Connect program, Senior Connect is set to train 150 older adults to navigate the internet and utilize digital tools. With initial funding from Capital Area Council on Governments (CAPCOG), we met our original goal of training 50 referred learners between May and August. As the program continues to evolve and expand with new funding sources, we are proud to share an update of the program’s progress and implementation over its first couple of months!
Each organization played a distinct role in establishing, supporting, and maintaining the Senior Connect program. AGE of Central Texas provided the overall program administration and execution. Its staff managed and assigned trainers to the learners, prepared and delivered the training materials and tablets, maintained the database, provided troubleshooting, and reported status updates to CAPCOG.
CTN staff developed the training materials in several languages, including English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese. We provided the training materials for new trainers and helped “shadow” new trainers on their first lessons to help guide and answer any questions. CTN also managed the ordering of tablets and setting up T-Mobile sim cards for internet access through KBS Mobility.
Senior Access provided the shared Google space for the files, forms, database, and documentation of the program. It also printed and bound the training booklets included in the training.
To begin the process of enrolling learners in the program, community partners referred their older adult clients who had limited or no access to the internet but a desire to use it. AGE staff worked to onboard the referrals, assist them with signing up for the internet, and ship them a 10-inch tablet, stand, stylus, and training booklet.
Once the senior had the tablet and internet access, the program administrator assigned them to an appropriate language trainer. The trainer officially enrolled the learner by contacting them, completing an intake assessment, and asking them to verify their information and commitment to the five-lesson plan.
Feedback and Success Stories
To evaluate the ongoing progress of the program, participants are provided feedback forms to complete at the end of lessons to provide comments and answer a set of questions about their experience. When asked how participants would rate the overall experience working with their trainer, 100% reported a 4 or 5 rating. When participants are asked on a 1 to 5 scale how likely they are to recommend this program to fellow seniors, 100% reported a 4 or 5 rating.
For more qualitative and personalized feedback, we asked participants to provide comments on what they like about this program. Many provided positive feedback on their experience working with a trainer one-on-one — commenting on trainers’ intelligence, accommodation, patience, respectfulness, and encouragement. Other learners mentioned how useful the program was for learning cybersecurity, navigating a device, working with mobile applications, and using email. The following are selected quotes directly from participants when responding to what they enjoyed about the program:
- Everything, especially the people from the first person I spoke with to the trainer. Pleasant, yet professional and very helpful and understanding, and accommodating. You’re all-stars.
- It gave me the incentive to explore more in the world of technology. It has opened a new world of opportunities!
- Tablet is very good for seniors and the instruction is very helpful.
When asked for any other comments, we continued to receive positive feedback as participants expressed their gratitude for the program and their trainer. One learner shared the following anecdote:
“I learned more than expected. I was a bit apprehensive but gradually made me want to learn more. I hope this program continues to grow. If it benefited someone like me with a little experience in the tech world — imagine what it would do for a person with no tech experience. This will be wonderful for an isolated senior with little family, who can’t get out. The trainer was wonderful. She listened carefully and was always willing to find answers for me. She’s a keeper!”
Future of the Program
CAPCOG’s funding enabled the Senior Connect program to get off the ground, train 50 senior learners how to use the internet, mitigate social isolation for older adults, and establish best practices for future iterations of the program. It also helped develop and translate the Senior Connect curriculum into Vietnamese and Korean languages, which will extend the program to new populations. Our community partner, Austin Asian Community Health Initiative (AACHI), has offered to help AGE recruit trainers to serve the Korean and Vietnamese clients in the future.
With the support of three additional grants from the City of Austin (Grant for Technology Opportunity Program), Spectrum/Charter Communications, and the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, the Senior Connect program will continue to evolve and serve seniors across Central Texas. This funding will support 80 additional senior participants to obtain a tablet, access the internet, and receive full support in learning how to use it. As we continue to expand to new populations across Central Texas, we at CTN are excited to witness and support the ongoing evolution of Senior Connect!