Eastern Michigan University’s Engage@EMU and the University of Michigan’s Ginsberg Center are teaming up to launch Digital Connecting Corps (DCC), a program that will help bridge the digital divide in Washtenaw County by helping older adults learn how to better use technology.
This program is a way to utilize willing students at both universities. Students can volunteer and teach technology and digital skills to older adults in Washtenaw County in a personalized and customized way to make it easier for them to use smartphones and computers. Through one-on-one training in a virtual setting, these students will be able to help progress the knowledge of the internet in older adults.
The program is currently working with three different senior centers: Milan Seniors for Healthy Living, Chelsea Senior Center, and Ypsilanti Senior Citizens Center. The original funding for this program is coming from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
“Through this program, I was able to join the Reframing Aging workshops. It really teaches us how to talk about older adults and how to work and develop programs with older adults in mind,” Julie Vogl, Engage Project Coordinator, said. “We talked about the momentum of older adults and using their energy, and putting all these different things in place to not only work for them but work with them to develop programming and make it more person-centered.”
Students who choose to work with this program will be given the title “Tech Coach” after they have completed their training. The training program is free to all participants and laptops and computers are available if needed.
“Right now we are doing the pilot phase, which will be just us figuring out how everything works and working out the kink that we run into, but in the fall, there will be more opportunities to actually become involved in the program,” Curtis Townsley, Graduate Assistant, Digital Inclusion, said.
The training sessions will be based on each participant's wants and needs and will go beyond the simple teachings of technology, including how to download apps, or even start-up small businesses, and more.
“It's amazing hearing all the different stuff that they want to do with technology. One of the older women, she was like ‘I want to be able to run an Etsy shop,’ the other one wanted to submit videos to contest on TV. Just hearing how excited they were for this program made it all worthwhile to me,” Townsley said.
For students who have an interest in partnering with DCC, an application can be fulfilled through the Digital Connecting Corps (DCC) Partnership Interest Form.