Thirteen local seniors participating in the Central Boston Elder Services (CBES) “Digital Equity Initiative” recently graduated and earned Certificates of Achievement attesting to their skills and confidence in the online world of IPads and computers. The group of seniors braved the COVID surges and winter storms to earn their certificates after taking part in the 12-week program.
The seniors were honored at a graduation ceremony in early March at the Catherine Hardaway Residences in Roxbury.
“Our graduates cannot only use the technology, but they understand it and have confidence in themselves in using computers and IPads,” said CBES Board Vice President Royal Bolling Jr. “This program has led to their long-term engagement with technology. Now they can use it to communicate with their children and grandchildren and each other. They can make use of important telehealth meetings. The Digital Equity Initiative welcomes our seniors into the world of technology and they love it!”
The CBES “Digital Equity Initiative” is funded with a $35,000 grant from the City of Boston Digital Equity Fund, created to address the “digital divide” that points to inequities in access to and use of technology in communities of color. The grant funds technology programs at senior public housing sites served by CBES including the Catherine Hardaway Residences and specific Boston Housing Authority buildings for which CBES provides resident services.
Enrollees are provided with IPads which they take home with them on completion of the program. They came together weekly in a 12-week program to learn to operate the software, set up gmail accounts, send emails, participate in google-meet sessions, and overall become comfortable with the major aspects of online technology.
Participant Jacqueline Cain praised the initiative.
“I enjoyed the whole class. Any questions asked were answered so competently,” said Cain. “Lastly, we know that we have a support system in place even after the conclusion of the classes; we know we can reach out to CBES staff.”
Sylvia Exantus, CBES Acting Executive Director & CFO, thanked the City of Boston for this cutting-edge grant.
“It’s making a difference for our seniors at the Catherine Hardaway Residences and other senior housing sites, addressing the technological inequities so prevalent here in Roxbury,” she said. “We are so pleased to hold this graduation and are preparing to conduct classes in nine more senior housing communities operated by the Boston Housing Authority, beginning on March 9 at the Holgate Apartments, which is a BHA Senior/Disabled Building.”
CBES Resident Services Manager Elizabeth Vazquez Aguilar said the program also gives older residents a great opportunity to socialize with each other.
“They get together once a week for the program where they learn so much and also get to enjoy each other’s company,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar pointed out that for many years CBES has provided computer classes for seniors separate from the Digital Equity Initiative.
CBES Computer Instructor Nina Ruff said she loves working with the seniors and helping to open the doors of technology for them.
“They want to be part of today’s society, to keep up with their children and grandchildren,” said Ruff. “It’s a great way for them to stay in touch from the comfort of their own homes. And they are terrific students.”