Vivalon is the largest nonprofit serving older adults in Marin county, California. It offers older adults free rides and meals, as well as an array of classes. These include fitness, nutrition, arts and music, languages, falls prevention, and more. One important subset of Vivalon’s services involves technology. According to Stephanie McNally, Vivalon’s director of healthy aging, “People need digital literacy just to get by. During the pandemic, for example, people couldn’t schedule a vaccine appointment without it. Everything is digital nowadays, and we’re all so dependent on our devices. Older adults can’t be left behind.”
Vivalon offers its clients basic and intermediate digital skills courses. It also hosts two-hour workshops every other month on specific topics, such as internet security or social media. Additionally, clients can schedule time with a volunteer, called a tech tutor, to ask any specific questions. However, Stephanie says that the organization is “very cognizant” of the fact that many folks may not be able to visit Vivalon sites in person. Many older adults are homebound, and geographic factors also play a role, as “a large part of the county is very rural, and driving to a class can be challenging.”
Wanting to expand its services, Vivalon reached out to CTN, which will provide remote digital literacy training through its Home Connect program. “Expanding our in-home efforts, especially in multiple languages, is critical. CTN is helping reach a part of the population that we could not reach before. They’re helping us fulfill our unmet needs,” says Stephanie.
Particularly for homebound folks, connection with others — even virtually — is critical. Stephanie says that the mail carrier may be the only person that many older adults see on a given day. CTN’s remote programming allows learners to connect with their instructor and also learn how to keep in touch online with family and friends through video calls, email, and social media.
Stephanie is confident that the program will make a major difference in learners’ lives, as she has seen the impact of Vivalon’s other technology initiatives. “[The learners] are so appreciative. Devices help them meet their basic needs and do things online that they couldn’t do any other way. They can contact their physicians and refill prescriptions online, and they can reach out to other people. They feel less isolated when they have devices and digital literacy. The older adults that we will reach [with CTN] have limited incomes and would not be able to otherwise access these devices and services. We’re opening up the world to them. Maybe they can’t leave their homes to go to a concert, but with the internet, they can watch it online. Museums also give virtual tours, and people can enjoy art from around the world from the comfort of their own home and at no cost to them.”
She continues, “Providing 1:1 support [to clients] is challenging for a nonprofit, and especially if we want to reach homebound individuals and rural communities. Everyone at Vivalon is very excited to work with CTN. We really appreciate that CTN is helping us round out our offerings and helping us do things that we could not do without them.”
Together with CTN, Vivalon is committed to digital equity. Says Stephanie: “No matter how old you are, you can learn. We can get you a device, set up your internet, and help you get connected.”