The arrival of COVID-19 and the sheltering-in-place mandate created an urgency for technology solutions to alleviate the social isolation of vulnerable, lower-income older adults and improve their health and well-being.
SeniorFusion addressed this need by partnering with Oakland’s St. Mary’s Center (stmaryscenter.org) and established the We Connect-Social Tech for Seniors (WC-STS) pilot project with the support of The Joseph and Vera Long Foundation. The objective was to explore how technology could be used to build community and meet social justice goals.
While most social technology solutions are designed to connect seniors with friends and family, the WC-STS project enabled and encouraged activities between members of an established group and helped further advocacy goals, e.g. affordable housing and access to health care. Being online also enriched seniors’ lives by connecting them to loved ones whom they had not seen for many months; through online classes (e.g. tai chi for better balance) to opportunities for civic participation (e.g. Candidates Forum) and wellness events (e.g. Alameda County Healthy Living Festival).
The pilot group was made up of 18 low-income seniors (17 of whom are of color) from 58 to 89 years of age living independently in the Oakland-Berkeley area. Over a brief 4-month period, participants showed positive improvements in these areas:
· Participants improved in technology skills, use, and confidence
· Participants’ social connectedness improved
· Participants increased engagement in social justice and advocacy activities
With the project’s successful outcomes and lessons learned, SeniorFusion endeavors to scale up the We Connect-Social Tech for Seniors model to positively impact additional seniors in 2021, whether living in affordable housing sites or in independent residences. We are seeking funding partners to reach this goal.
“Now I know there’s a way that I still can connect with people… I don’t feel isolated anymore. I can get on my computer; I can get on my phone.” - We Connect-Social Tech for Seniors Participant
Zoom session with St. Mary's Center pilot participants
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