"Older adults are now seeing technology as a tool for connecting with family, developing new friendships, exploring options for entertainment and hobbies, accessing support and information about health topics, and managing activities of daily life, such as banking and shopping."
Sarah Hoit is the CEO and co-founder of ConnectedLiving, a Quincy, Mass.-based company that teaches seniors about technology to help them better connect with their families around the country. Last week, ConnectedLiving announced that it is launching its personalized computer training at all nine Brookdale Senior Living locations in Rhode Island.
Hoit talked to Providence Business News about the challenges seniors face to become tech-savvy and how ConnectedLiving makes the learning process easier.
Before founding ConnectedLiving in 2007, Hoit founded Explore Inc., a program developed in response to the growing need for quality after-school and summer programs. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
PBN: How are the technology challenges seniors face different from those of the average technology user?
HOIT: While benefits for seniors who connect online are clear, such as increased socialization and decreased depression – not to mention having access to important information regarding healthcare and varied areas of interest – many older senior citizens remain somewhat intimated and hesitant. This is primarily due to a low comfort level with something new and a concern over feeling inadequate when it comes to using a computer device.
Technology is becoming entrenched in life and, contrary to popular perception, older adults are not immune to this phenomenon.
However, well-known technologies, such as social networking, email and Internet browsing are not particularly elder friendly (as a rule) and can be intimidating – especially to older seniors. The ConnectedLiving Network is a simple, safe and secure social network designed with ease of use in mind, both for the novice and experienced technology user. Our sophisticated content management system tailors itself to the preferences of each user, creating a truly custom experience.
PBN: What are the most significant benefits seniors gain from learning how to use computers, the Internet and social networks?
HOIT: Older adults are now seeing technology as a tool for connecting with family, developing new friendships, exploring options for entertainment and hobbies, accessing support and information about health topics, and managing activities of daily life, such as banking and shopping. We have seen in our own pilots that seniors who become engaged with technology have increased self-esteem and greater social interaction compared to seniors who are not involved with technology and we are finding that technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping older adults maintain and improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
PBN: How does ConnectedLiving's personalized training make the experience of learning how to use technology easier for seniors?
HOIT: We have always found that it is the combination of personal training and the right technology that creates adoption. All of the seniors, their families and the staff that care for senior living residents have access to our ConnectedLiving Center seven days a week for ongoing support. And many of our clients have ConnectedLiving Ambassadors in their communities. Our Ambassadors are energetic and social people who love making a difference in peoples’ lives; you can’t teach that. What we can do is train and certify our Ambassadors to teach technology to those who have had little exposure to it. We know that in the end, what matters is not the technology itself but the access it creates that will give it meaning.
PBN: Online scams have become a serious danger for Internet users, especially for seniors who might be more vulnerable because of their unfamiliarity with the online environment. How does ConnectedLiving teach senor learners to identify and avoid such scams?
HOIT: All of us have to be careful with online profiles and how we use the internet, but shouldn’t let fear stop us from being online. ConnectedLiving’s safe and secure cloud-based social platform keeps people connected to friends, family and communities without sharing that information with the rest of the world. Our library has over 150 courses to stimulate the mind, and we have catalogs of movies, games, and vetted websites to link to. Our computer learning curriculum also teaches the basics of internet safety so that when seniors do go beyond the walls of the ConnectedLiving Network, they are armed with strategies to protect themselves. And it’s always important for older adults to be informed about the latest scams and warnings by reading the latest updates on government sites and it’s also important they learn how to identify spam and never open an email from an unfamiliar source.
PBN: Besides its new programs at Brookdale Senior Living locations, does ConnectedLiving provide technology training for seniors elsewhere in Rhode Island?
HOIT: We always welcome seniors to join us at our community locations for group discussions. To find a community near you, please call 800-223-5080 and we can direct you to the nearest class. We are currently in conversations with other senior living providers to bring our services to more seniors in the state.