Transforming lives through digital literacy.

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Think of mobile technology — a smartphone or tablet — and you probably picture it in the hands of a Millennial. But at CTN, we understand that mobile technology is not the exclusive playground of the young: we’ve seen the way seniors respond to it.

Since August of this year, CTN has been training seniors to use mobile devices at St. Francis Living Room, a partner location that is part of SF Connected. The program has helped 15 tech-curious seniors access key resources online, such as health and housing information, and helped them make new social connections.

But this isn’t a hit-and-run initiative. Every participant who completes the training, which includes internet navigation safety skills, receives their very own Motorola Xoom tablet to keep! The CTN volunteer trainer also provides ongoing support to seniors who have been awarded the tablets.

This is a vital program because CTN has found handheld technology to be superior to its desktop counterpart in many ways. Here are just a few things we’ve observed.

  • Mobile devices are an excellent option for those who are physically less mobile. With widely available Wi-Fi, the tablets can be carried and used anywhere that’s comfortable and convenient to older people.
  • Taking photos with a tablet is fun and easy, enabling seniors to send images to their friends and family instantaneously. The seniors we’ve worked with seem to get the biggest kick out of taking, sending, and receiving pictures.
  • The swipe and tap method of accessing information is often far easier for seniors than using a mouse.
  • Knowing how to use mobile tech helps seniors connect with younger members of the family for whom using this technology is second nature. It gives the seniors and juniors something in common.

This program helps seniors who otherwise could not afford to purchase a tablet. It began as a two-hour training session three times a week for very small groups of seniors to allow us to give each learner ample time and attention. Most students did not have an email address and did not have existing connections to family or friends. By coming to class, participants created new relationships both with the tutor and with other students. To enrich their engagement with the outside world and each other, we encourage them to exchange emails and share photos or short videos — of themselves or their pets for example.

As the supply of tablets runs low, the program is now limited to a two-hour session once a week.

Want to help CTN sustain this project to help more seniors discover a new world of information and fun at their fingertips? Consider supporting CTN with a financial donation! Or, if you have recently replaced your mobile device, consider donating your old one to CTN. This program doesn’t require the latest equipment; our seniors simply need the basics, and recycling your technology castoffs is a powerful way to help bridge the digital divide. Send us an email if you’re interested in donating a tablet. 

This program has been a real joy for the trainers involved, who have been receiving emails and pictures from the participants. Here are just a few moments from the program for you to enjoy

Tapping Into the Potential of Tablets

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Lorna Walsh