Earlier this week, 1,500 senior citizens from Harlem and around NYC (residents of buildings owned by the The New York City Housing Authority [NYCHA]), got hands-on experience with The Internet, Google, Facebook, and Twitter and learned how new devices like iPods, Wii and digital cameras can improve the quality of their lives. They attended NYCHA’s 6th Annual Senior Benefit & Entitlement Fair at Riverbank State Park in Harlem. Participants also received guides on how to shop for and use common tech devices.
The annual event was created to facilitate enrollment in entitlement programs and to help seniors stay informed about the benefits and services available to them. As the internet continues to play a vital part in obtaining information and services, this event provides a great opportunity for the elderly to connect with tech organizations who’s goal is to get more people engaged in technology and the internet and to bridge the digital divide.
Columbia University’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, and the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE), part of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, in partnership with Per Scholas and Digital Divide Partnership were the tech organizations that participated this year.
Columbia University created the first public wi-fi hot spot in the park’s history and Per Scholas provided laptops and volunteer instructors who led the hands-on workshops. Unfortunately, at the request of park officials, the hot spot was not made permanent.
According to Bruce Lincoln, Entrepreneur-in-Resident at CTICE (and the person who arranged for wi-fi in the park from Digital Divide Partnership), Home Networking Services (a local African-American owned company) is continuing to provide safe, secure, family-friendly wi-fi at Riverbank State Park as a public service.
According to Kenneth L. Walker, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, Per Scholas, “There are a number of stories that I can share with you about my interaction with seniors but one sticks out in my mind. One 85 year old senior citizen came up to John Rhea, Chairman at NYCHA and talked to him about a number of things, one of which was getting signed up for an email account. John asked for my assistance in getting her setup. Upon getting her free Gmail email address she immediately sent both John and I an email, letting us know that she was now connected. The theme of the fair, “Expand Your World” could not have been more effectively demonstrated than by this wonderful story of getting a senior connected to the world of the internet.”
Photo: Peter Mikoleski