R.I. Office of Healthy Aging grants $200K to groups that bridge digital divide for seniors

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Office of Healthy Aging is awarding a total of $200,000 to 10 local organizations in communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic to help connect older adults with technology.

Funded programs will help seniors access smart devices, training, internet service and resources, said OHA. The grants are part of the office’s digiAGE initiative.

“The internet is a basic necessity today,” said OHA Director Rosamaria Amoros Jones. “So much of how we manage our lives and connect with one another and to services is driven by technology now, yet inequities persist, with many older adults and families in lower-income neighborhoods lacking access to, or fluency in, digital tools. I am thrilled to support the work of these local agencies to get more of our neighbors connected.”

Pew Research Center data shows that 41% of Rhode Islanders 65 and older are not broadband users, with the least usage reported among those in lower-income areas. More than 25% of Rhode Island seniors aren’t online, a fact of special concern in light of the pandemic and the ability to keep people connected with one another, said OHA.

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Grant recipients, selected based on their commitments to equity and other criteria, are:

  • YMCA of Greater Providence will receive $27,679 to assist older residents impacted by the pandemic with culturally relevant digital tools and training.
  • Tri-County Community Action Program will receive $23,700 to provide a virtual way for caregivers to interact with seniors in their care.
  • Grand Flourish will receive $22,720 to enhance digital literacy among grandparents through one-on-one telephone mentoring and other supports.
  • Higher Ground will receive $22,064 to increase digital access and literacy among isolated seniors with smart device and internet purchases and to provide training.
  • DigiAge Newport will receive $21,100 to engage caregivers in supportive and educational programs using smart devices and the internet.
  • Carelink will receive $20,576 to support caregivers of adult day health center participants with investments in technology and education.
  • Village Common of RI will receive $18,260 to assist more adult caregiver support circles in accessing the internet.
  • Cornerstone will receive $17,000 to partner with colleges to educate caregivers on the benefits of connectivity.
  • Cumberland will receive $16,750 to support digital literacy for seniors to improve access to health information.
  • Center for South East Asians will receive $10,000 to help elders virtually connect and combat isolation.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.