Program Seeks to Shrink Digital Divide Facing Older People

The initiative will provide tablets and training to low-income seniors.

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DETROIT (AP) — Low-income senior citizens in southeastern Michigan are receiving electronic tablets, digital training and tech-enabled health care services through a collaboration between the city of Detroit, businesses and nonprofits.

The program, “Connecting Seniors,” is made possible through the Connect 313 Fund and a $3.9 million grant from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Rapid Response Initiative.

In addition to Detroit, the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf event, Rocket Companies, Microsoft and the United Way of Southeastern Michigan are part of Connect 313 which aims to close the digital divide in the city.

“The disparity in digital equity is a systemic, generational issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s digital director and Connect 313 chief advocate. “We’ve already made great strides in connecting students to critical technology resources, but we must not lose focus on our seniors who are facing economic hardship and persistent technology adoption challenges that make telehealth a distant reality.”

The COVID-19 virus has not only impacted the health of older people, but it also has left some isolated from loved ones and community support, according to Jay Farner, chief executive of Rocket Companies and chair of the Connect 313 Fund board.

“Throughout the pandemic it has become abundantly clear that we need to be creative in how we connect residents to digital resources,” Farner said. The initiative "provides an impactful solution for our seniors to access the health care they need.”

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