The town of Brookline is offering a pilot program to keep seniors connected to the internet during the pandemic.
Low-income seniors ages 60 and older and adults with disabilities who live alone can obtain a free tablet and/or free internet service for a year, along with technical support, via the Tech Buddies pilot program launched last year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to assist low-income families with internet access and many communities responded, but many low-income seniors lost their ability to access the internet through public libraries and other low- or no-cost means,” said fire Chief John Sullivan, director of the Brookline Office of Emergency Management. “This program is aimed at providing a connection to those seniors who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and who are, in many instances, the most isolated due to the pandemic.”
Emergency Management received a $28,000 grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in April to launch the pilot program.
So far, the program has pre-qualified 47 individuals and delivered 18 tablets. One recipient explained that she was technologically averse, but was pleased to learn a volunteer was available to deliver the tablet, help set up internet access and provide follow-up support.
During those at-home deliveries, credentialed volunteers provide basic education and offer to return as needed so that participants gain the confidence they need to use their tablets. The program provides volunteer-based remote tech support for all participants, as well as a binder with large-print, easy-to-follow instructions for everything from charging the tablet to making a Zoom call.
Participants who don’t already have internet service can receive internet via a low-income Comcast program; the grant will pay for the first 12 months of service. Participants who don’t already own a non-phone device will receive a tablet pre-loaded with links to websites and apps to get them started. The tablet also comes with a protective case and 12 months of free antivirus software donated by Lookout Antivirus.
“It is vitally important that seniors be able to stay connected to their communities, loved ones and important health resources while staying safe amid the pandemic, and we hope this program will facilitate that for seniors who have few other options,” Sullivan said. “I encourage all Brookline residents who qualify and need this assistance to reach out to us immediately.”
Qualifying residents include seniors ages 60 and older, and low-income adults of any age with a disability. Those living in Brookline Housing Authority properties and those participating in other public assistance programs qualify, as do individuals making $25,760 or less and couples making $34,840.
Call 617-730-2329 or email [email protected] for information.