Mobile tablets will help select older adults access virtual programs and online services, and help limit social isolation.
NEW YORK (October 28, 2021) – The Department for the Aging today announced that it is distributing 10,000 free Wi-Fi equipped mobile tablets to select older New Yorkers across the five boroughs. With these free tablets, older New Yorkers, will be able to access virtual programs, connect to online services and resources, and stay in touch with family and friends. The initiative was unveiled today during a tablet distribution event at the Carter Burden Leonard Covello Senior Center in East Harlem.
“During the pandemic, being connected online to family and friends and having access to virtual services was a lifesaver for older New Yorkers who were homebound. These 10,000 free tablets are going to provide those same important resources to older adults who do not have internet-enabled devices. It will help bridge the digital divide that have kept many of them disconnected,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. “We are excited to provide them with this crucial technological equipment, and help them stay engaged, active, and informed about the services offered by the City, the Department for the Aging and their local older adult centers.”
The free tablet distribution is being done in partnership with the Department’s senior center network, which includes more than 280 centers, clubs and satellites. Local senior centers will be distributing the tablets to older New Yorkers who were selected based on eligibility by senior center staff and the Department, with priority given to older New Yorkers who live alone, do not have an internet-enabled electronic device (computer, tablet or smartphone), reside within a Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity (TRIE) neighborhood, and are active senior center participants interested in virtual programming.
The tablets have free internet service through June 2022, and are preloaded with applications, including Senior Planet, which offers online resources and virtual workshops, Zoom, Gmail, and the NYC COVID Safe app. In addition, tablet recipients will receive free technological support and training on navigating the internet and using online applications.
This initiative follows the Department for the Aging’s ongoing efforts to keep older New Yorkers connected, engaged and help them limit social isolation through virtual programming and online services. It is also one of the goals outlined in the Department’s Community Care Plan, a five-year plan to expand aging support services and help older adults age in their homes and avoid institutionalization. The Community Care plan builds upon the success and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the expansion of virtual services that kept many older adults active and engaged while mitigating social isolation.
When the pandemic caused the physical closure of senior centers, senior center services transitioned to virtual programming and over-the-phone. These virtual programs included fitness classes, art workshops, and social events that were attended by about 40,000 individuals. Providing older New Yorkers with the technological equipment they need will build on the success of virtual programming and help make it available to even more older adults.
"I am so excited for the New Yorkers who will be getting a free tablet, which will allow them to access a plethora of knowledge, assistance, and programs. Unfortunately, the ability to have so many resources at your fingertip is not available to everyone. These 10,000 free tablets will connect our city's older adults with the services that they deserve, and I applaud Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez for her commitment to bettering the lives of our aging community," said Council Member Margaret Chin.
“As Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Technology, I applaud this distribution initiative. Especially while we still struggle through the pandemic, a computer tablet with wi-fi can be like a passport to all the places our seniors need to go, vital items they need to get, and loved ones with whom they need to connect,” said Council Member Robert F. Holden.
“The use of technology has been critical throughout this pandemic and having access will allow for our older adults to connect to vital support services and engage in programing that will assist in preventing social isolation,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “I want to thank DFTA’s Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez and the Department’s Community Care Plan to expand aging support services and help older adults age in place.”
About the Department for the Aging
The New York City Department for the Aging works to eliminate ageism and ensure the dignity and quality of life of New York City's diverse 1.7 million older adults. DFTA also works to support caregivers through service, advocacy, and education. DFTA is the largest area agency on aging in the United States.