Digital Connecting Corps

the ann arbor area community foundation logo of a multicolored tree with leaves that resemble autumn
 
the ann arbor area community foundation logo of a multicolored tree with leaves that resemble autumn

 

About the Program

The DCC, a collaboration between Eastern Michigan University (EMU) [email protected] and University of Michigan (UM) Ginsberg Center, seeks to design and implement an intergenerational and sustainable digital support program for older adults living in Washtenaw County. Our goal is to utilize the resources of both institutions’ student capital to consistently serve as tech coaches for the older adult community at Washtenaw County older adult Centers.

Goals and Outcomes of the Program

  • Digital Literacy and Training
  • Technology and Access
  • Community Impact

Through the three prongs of this program, we anticipate to increase our county’s older adult digital access and literacy. All while providing a mechanism for older adults to learn needed technology to decrease social isolation.

Programming Information

  • How did we start?

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    Among older adults in Washtenaw County, a combination of increased social isolation and lack of digital access and digital literacy has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Currently, there is no County-wide infrastructure or nonprofit focused on digital connection and literacy for older adults. However local Senior Center directors noted that digital access, understanding, and connection are critical to the health and wellness of older adults who live in Washtenaw County.

    [email protected] at Eastern Michigan University and the Ginsberg Center at University of Michigan collaboratively created an intergenerational plan to help bridge this digital divide. First, a survey was shared with three Washtenaw County older adult Centers (Ypsilanti, Chelsea, and Milan) to see what the critical needs were. 

    The survey identified which older adults need to be served and supported through each Center. Informing this proposal is an inability for each Center to virtually (phone or computer) identify and reach out to its members, thus inhibiting its ability (and other projects such as ours) to provide needed services such as technology. As a result, designing a strategy to identify and reach out to older adults will be transformative for all Centers impacting future engagement and programming.

  • Where are we now?

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    We are currently in the pilot phase of the program. EMU Occupational Therapy students and faculty are receiving training to become Tech Coaches to teach technology to older adults. The Tech Coaches training is provided by KovirTech and will help elevate our Tech Coaching sessions.

    Once trained, the tech coaches will meet with older adult participants for an initial consultation via Zoom. During this consultation, the older adult participants will talk to the tech coaches about their technology goals. These person-centered and customizable goals are formed with the participant and can include items such as: Internet setup, technology device use, smartphone camera use, smartphone app use, social media setup, email setup, and more. Over the course of three to four weeks, the older adult participants and the tech coaches will meet at an agreed upon time for one hour to work on their technology goals. After the three or four week sessions are complete, the older adult participants will receive an electronic and hard copy of what they learned should they need to access this in the future. The participants also have the option to re-enroll if they would like to learn additional technology skills. 

    In addition to the Tech Coaching sessions, older adult participants can request assistance to set up their Internet and acquire a laptop free of charge. An EMU Social Enterprise, Digital Inclusion, will provide up to 30 tablets and/or computers. These devices will be refurbished and updated for use and distribution to Ypsilanti, Milan and Chelsea Senior Centers.

  • Where are we going?

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    By July 1, a phone support line will be set up which will be an access point for the program as well as provide tech support. The phone support line will be used in outreach and marketing materials and if anyone would like more information about the DCC they can call that line. It will also be used for quick technology questions that do not need a three to four week tech coach commitment. These items include issues such as getting reconnected to the Wifi, changing font size, and more.

    Key to program sustainability will be the co-design of a Center-driven computer distribution process and one that provides some revenue generation (e.g. older adult center free rental, pay rental to ensure future purchases, etc.). Generating minimal revenue will assist Centers in supporting future computer maintenance through Digital Inclusion.

  • Compliance and Accountability

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    Students at both universities will fill sign an Agreement Form attesting that they are committing to this project for at least one semester. Students will also complete an I-9, Background Check, Student Handbook Review, and Data Security/Confidentiality Review prior to their start date.

For more information about the Digital Connecting Corps please contact us at [email protected]

Interested in Partnering?

This is a truly collaborative effort in partnership with educational and nonprofit organizations in Washtenaw County. We are always looking for more partners that can help us increase the capacity for the DCC. If you or your organization is interested in partnering, please fill out this Partnership Interest Form