Since its launch in 2012, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® Foundation has worked to improve the lives of older adults and people with disabilities through the use of technology. One area of focus for the foundation and its grantees and partners is addressing loneliness and social isolation.
In the unpredictable period of change during the COVID-19 outbreak, when people across the world are practicing social distancing, feelings of loneliness are magnified, particularly for seniors and those with disabilities. These organizations, which have received grants from the CTA Foundation, are making sure we stay connected and supported.
AARP Foundation and its team at Connect2Affect promotes social connection even when the world must be apart, particularly for older adults. Connect2Affect offers assessments and resources for social isolation to help avoid the negative effects of loneliness.
Funded by the CTA Foundation in 2019, Connect2Affect uses voice assistance to measure and address social isolation for seniors in low-income senior housing.
Using Amazon Alexa and various other smart home products, Front Porch is helping their community members stay connected. The list of caregiving applications through Alexa Skills, such as Ask Marvee and Ask My Buddy, continues to grow to meet the needs of older adults.
An initial study from Front Porch found that 71% of participants felt more connected to family, friends and the community since the start of the program.
The Jewish Healthcare Foundation created the virtual senior academy, which connects older adults in the greater Pittsburgh area through online classes, social connections and other programs. The classes cover topics from health and wellness, arts and music, book clubs, history, and much more.
Community members can also sign up to be class facilitators to engage with the senior academy members and share knowledge, or offer to be a tech buddy to an older adult.
In addition to partnering with Lyft to provide seniors in New York with trip credits during the novel coronavirus outbreak, which allows them to get to retail locations during senior-only hours for groceries and other essentials, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) has also created a resource page on its Senior Planet website for classes, activities and information.
Daily online programs on topics such as telemedicine, online banking and videoconferencing, as well as guides to internet and device recommendations, are making sure seniors feel supported and informed even while alone.
Although there are many solutions highlighted in this article, the organizations serving seniors and people with disabilities are struggling as they meet the needs of these communities during the pandemic. Both staff and budgets are strained under the increased demands. The CTA Foundation is actively working with our partners to help address their needs, but there is far more to do. Please consider joining us by donating. We will direct your contributions to where it can make a real difference in communities.