The South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA) in 2018 launched its Tech Services Program to teach older adults how to use technology; from basics like turning on a computer to using Google docs and online banking. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the nonprofit aging services organization has launched SoFIA Tech Connect, which allows older adults who are sheltering in place to learn tips and tricks for connecting remotely.
“As the situation with COVID-19 began getting worse and worse, we were seeing how clients, even our older adult volunteers, were becoming more socially isolated as they sheltered at home, with no volunteer visits and no family visits,” says Adi Goldstein, SoFIA’s Director of Development and Community Affairs. “We saw that we had clients who were completely cut off from the rest of the world,” she adds.
Goldstein and other SoFIA staffers looked at their organization’s in-person tech training, and quickly modified it to allow for remote implementation—from recruiting and training volunteers to be technology instructors, to recruiting and onboarding older adults for online lessons.
“At this time, everyone is figuring out how best to innovate, [especially] for seniors,” says Goldstein. “And it’s especially important for support organizations to innovate quickly and provide meaningful services. We’ve seen organizations do a great job throughout our state.”
Volunteers now are training older adults how to use the Zoom video-chat platform, as well as FaceTime, Facebook and Google Hangouts, so they can connect with loved ones and friends while sheltering in place. Once trained in a platform like Zoom, elders can learn even more about technology via an easier to understand, remote face-to-face connection with volunteers.
Since launching in late March, SoFIA is training volunteers from its current group of over 40 SoFIA Tech Trainers, and is engaging with employees from leading South Florida companies who would like to volunteer and who soon will be able to connect with the hundreds of elders SoFIA serves with the new training program.
Goldstein has found, much to her delight, that many of the most effective tech trainers are other older adults. “To see older adults teaching their peers is such a powerful experience,” she says.
For more information, go to theSoFIA.org/techconnect.