April 06, 2021

Tech for seniors

Quan Nguyen, Tech for Seniors Program Manager, Choose Well San Diego

Tech for Seniors is an innovative program that helps reduce social isolation for low-income older adults. Started by a coalition of community organizations in South Bay, South County Action Network (SoCAN) including Choose Well San Diego, Renewing Life, Sarsis, St. Paul’s Senior Services, with funding from Congregational Community Development Corporation, the program pairs younger, tech savvy volunteers with older adults living in affordable senior housing, often without computers or access to Internet.

The program gives an iPad, as well as equipment necessary to connect to the Internet, to each older adult participant, and pairs them with a volunteer to show them ways they can use the iPad to engage with the world beyond their apartment. Volunteers, as well as staff funded by the program grantor, meet each participant at their community ten times over a six-month period, to guide them at their own pace on how to use the tablets.

Each participant receives one-on-one instruction, in one-hour classes, until they grasp the basics of using the iPad. They are then assigned to small groups where they can learn together. For some participants who have never held a tablet before, Tech for Seniors shows them how to open the case, turn on the iPad, and connect to WiFi. More advanced older adults learn to download apps, secure their devices, and take and send videos to their family living far away.

“I’m 78 years of age, and I just started this iPad class three weeks ago, and I didn’t know anything about iPads, and each week now, I’m so excited to learn more,” said Fluffy Dye, one of the 20 recipients of the first batch of iPads. “In today’s class, I learned how to take photos, delete them, and go on YouTube. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in just three weeks. I recommend this program to anybody, everybody, and especially the elderly who think they can’t learn, because then can. It’s really exciting, I can hardly wait for next week.”

One of the highlights of this program is that it is fully bilingual to serve Latino participants, which make the majority of the participants in the two communities Tech for Seniors currently serves, Congregational Tower and Silvercrest Residences, both in Chula Vista. Bilingual YouTube videos are sent to participants so they can review materials on their own.

The program grantors have funded the purchase of 40 additional iPads, for a total of 60, to allow more older adults to participate. However, engaging this many seniors effectively is no small task. While the program has paid staff to fill in the gaps, volunteers are the boots on the ground of Tech for Seniors, and because most volunteers are college students with changing schedules, more volunteers are always needed to help the participants in their one-hour classes. Most volunteers participate two to four hours a month and receive volunteer credits for their college classes.

To apply to volunteer, download the application here: