Organization leverages grant from digital workspace provider to launch remote learning program that keeps adults living in isolation in contact with friends and family through latest technology
As a society, we are more connected than ever, thanks to technology. And at a time when most of us remain under orders to shelter in place, it is more critical than ever that we use it to stay in contact with our family, friends and colleagues. To this end, the South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA), a South Florida non-profit that offers programming to bridge the socio-economic gap for older adults, has launched SoFIA Tech Connect, a unique program that pairs tech-savvy volunteer instructors with older adults currently sheltered in place to teach them remotely how to navigate programs such as Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook and Google Hangouts, so they can connect with loved ones. The program is supported through a grant from Citrix Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), a South Florida based provider of technology to enable remote work.
“When the COVID-19 crisis erupted most of our elderly clients and even our older adult volunteers began to feel even more isolated and cut off from the outside world,” said Lynn Brewer, SoFIA interim CEO and president. “Since SoFIA already has an established and flourishing technology training program in place with knowledgeable volunteers, SoFIA Tech Connect will serve as a natural extension of that program to help older adults living alone during this worldwide crisis.”
In 2018, SoFIA launched its popular Tech Services program with the help of funding from Citrix, to teach older adults how to use technology, offering classes at various levels of computer experience from the basics of learning how to turn on a computer to online banking and more. More than 250 seniors have graduated from SoFIA’s free technology courses feeling confident about using technology in a variety of settings.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adjust to a new normal that is anything but normal. And for older adults who were struggling with isolation prior to its onset, these are particularly challenging times,” said Jo Moskowitz, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citrix. “At Citrix, we understand the vital role that technology can play in keeping people connected and we are pleased to be supporting SoFIA’s efforts to leverage it to help the elderly maintain critical ties that can nourish their bodies and minds.”
SoFIA Tech Connect teaches older adults how to use necessary communication tools such as Zoom, Facetime and Google Hangouts so that they can connect with loves from a distance. Once comfortable with these technology platforms, volunteers are then able to take learning to the next level, teaching them how to connect on Facebook, play online games and more.
SoFIA has already begun training volunteers from its current group of more than 40 SoFIA Tech Trainers and is also actively working with employees from leading South Florida companies who would like to volunteer. Once each volunteer is trained, they are matched with one or more of the hundreds of elders SoFIA serves who would like remote tech training and virtual companionship. Volunteers and older adults who have already established a relationship are also now turning to technology to interact.
“We have had millennials with significant professional and technological experience sign up to help alongside older adults,” added Brewer. “Launching this program and witnessing such a strong community desire to help is a powerful experience.”
To find out how to become a volunteer or receive remote technology instruction from SoFIA Tech Connect, visit www.theSoFIA.org/techconnect.