We know from several studies conducted by the Pew Research Center that older adults are one of the demographics most likely to lack digital access and skills. So when the Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) approached us in 2010 to see if we wanted to partner on a project to provide trainers to dozens of senior centers in San Francisco, we jumped at the chance. 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, but also funded youth training, workforce development, accessible technology, and more. It was a huge win for low-income residents of a city with high levels of inequality.
Through BTOP, DAAS was able to install 250 computers at over 50 locations. CTN was tasked with providing volunteers to help install the machines and to provide ongoing digital skills training in multiple languages. The program was a huge success, and the City decided to continue funding the program, which is now referred to as SF Connected.
Here’s what Toby Shorts, Senior Center Director at Curry Senior Center, an SF Connected partner location, has to say:
The CTN trainers that come to Curry Senior Center develop relationships with our participants. They share their knowledge and their stories in a way that encourages older adults to come back time and time again, learning a little bit more each time. And they do this because the CTN staff and volunteers care about them and create lasting friendships with them. Once you’ve seen a senior who has never worked a mouse before suddenly on Facetime with relatives abroad, you understand the value in what CTN does.
We thank the City of San Francisco for their ongoing support of this project and all the partner locations who work hard every day to improve the quality of life of their clients.