Who’s helping seniors bridge the digital divide? - Generocity Philly


May 29, 2019 3:57 pm

Who’s helping seniors bridge the digital divide?

These 5 organizations are working in Philadelphia to keep seniors connected in an increasingly digital world.

People's Emergency Center offers classes to adults of all ages, from those who have never used a computer before to more well-versed users.

(Courtesy photo)

Philadelphians both young and old are interested in staying connected with family, scoring great shopping deals and learning new skills. But in a time where many of these interactions are taking place virtually, age can be a defining factor when it comes to accessibility.

The digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between those with the access and ability to use computers and the internet and those who do not.

Sixty-seven percent of adults ages 65 and older said they use the internet, but that drops to only 14% of seniors ages 80 and older, according to a Pew Research Center report.

As the digital divide continues to grow, these five organizations in Philadelphia are making strides to bring our oldest loved ones up to speed.

Lutheran Settlement House

The organization offers technology classes geared specially for seniors

Connecting with loved ones through email and social media can help keep your brain functioning, said Meg Finley, the nonprofit’s senior services and nutrition director.

A recent class taught the basics of emailing, and attaching a file or photo.

Many seniors are also finding the benefit in learning to pay their bills online, often saving them a trip in person, Finely said.

The organization does not have a mandatory fee for its classes, but accepts donations.

People’s Emergency Center

This nonprofit offers classes to adults of all ages, from those who have never used a computer before to more well-versed users.

The most basic classes cover the usage of a mouse, keyboard and preliminary functions of the computer, like powering it on. This leads to using a web browser and performing a successful search online.

Finally, participants can learn how to use the basics of Google Drive and the Microsoft Office Suite, covering anything from Word documents to spreadsheets.

The organization offers single classes and a 12-week course, where users meet once a week, free of cost.

“Things that you and I really take for granted, skills and technology that become inextricably linked to people’s lives, are things that are not accessible to a very large segment of the population.” said Nathan Kuruna, manager of digital inclusion.

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Philadelphia FIGHT

Technology programming at this organization is available for all ages, and tailored to how comfortable students feel using a computer, Jameil Johnson, a digital literacy instructor, said.

One course teaches using the internet, social media and email. Another goes into detail with Microsoft Office Suite, with individual courses offered on PowerPoint, Excel and Word.

A majority of their users are grandparents, who may have been exposed to computers through their children or grandchildren, but mostly don’t own a computer of their own, Johnson said.

“I would love to see it expand in a way where we can help folks access or get access to their own personal computers … so that they can do some of the work on their own,” Johnson said.

FIGHT offers their classes free of charge.


The corporation headquartered in Philadelphia offers internet for low-income families via Internet Essentials.

While the program is available for low-income families and single users of all ages, the company also offers a pilot program designed specifically for seniors, according to their website.

Seniors living in Philadelphia, who meet their requirements, can receive internet at home for $9.95 per month. This includes a modem rental that Comcast normally charges other users for, Jennifer Bilotta, vice president of communications said.

The company also supports digital literacy outreach throughout the city.


The company offers technology courses in-person and online.

Online trainings include safe browsing, backing up data and using e-books on an iPhone or iPad, and are provided at no cost after registering, according to their website.

In-person classes are offered to people of all ages and cover topics, like using an iPhone or Android device. Many of the courses in Philadelphia are located at accessible locations like public libraries.

Users should register for both the in-person and online courses through AARP’s website.



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