DigiAGE: Bridging The Digital Divide For Older Rhode Islanders

Older person holding a tablet device

Today we live in a digital world: from how we shop, work and bank to how we socialize. It’s all one click away, if you’re “connected.” At least one quarter of older Rhode Islanders aren’t, so we started the digiAGE collaborative.

Through a partnership of industry, government, and community, digiAGE aims to bridge this digital divide for older adults, linking them to the technology and virtual opportunities that underpin modern life and help keep us all, ya know, connected.

Our focus:

  • Device Access
  • Internet Connectivity
  • Training Programs
  • Online Content

Device Access

Increasing the availability of user-centric technology among older Rhode Islanders and adults living with disabilities.

ATEL Program

The Rhode Island Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan (ATEL) specialized landline telephone equipment and wireless communication devices: landline devices include amplified telephones, captioning telephones, emergency devices and handsfree speakerphones, and wireless devices include iPhone, iPad, Google Pixel, Lucia and Jitterbug. To receive equipment the person must have the following: a resident of Rhode Island, Hard of Hearing, Deaf, or have either a speech or neuromuscular disability that inhibits use of a standard telephone, and meet income criteria of 250% of the federal poverty line.

The ATEL Program also has a Hearing and Speech Lab available for demonstrations, and short term loans of many devices to improve quality of lives for the deaf/hard of hearing and speech disabled community, as well as, learn about accessibility options and Apps that are designed to make smartphones and tablets easier to use and more approachable for individuals living with disabilities and older adults.

AccessWireless was designed to help people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and their families and caretakers to find a cell phone and accessible wireless devices and services.

RAZ Mobility offers information about accessibility, ultimately making smartphones and tablets easier to use.

National Cristina Foundation pioneered the concept of technology reuse and makes donating used equipment easy with the goal of bridging the digital divide.

Telehealth Access for Seniors is a non-profit organization providing seniors and low-income communities with devices, instructions, and free tech-support to connect them to their physicians via teleHealth, and to friends and family using digital connectivity, and wellness tools via apps.

Older man video chatting on a phone

Internet Connectivity

Expanding internet connectivity among older people, adults living with disabilities, and their family caregivers.

Lifeline Wireless Telephone Service - Under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations a number of telephone wireless service carriers offer free service plans for low income R.I. residents and those eligible for various government assistance programs. The number of allowed minutes and text messages and data amounts vary by service carrier. Some provide free cell phones and may offer unlimited minutes and text messaging. Most provide access to the internet through their data allowance and consumers may be able to upgrade services for additional fees. It is important for consumers to review information about the plans available in the state to select one appropriate to their needs.

Public WiFi locations are available across Rhode Island. Find a location near you by downloading the WiFi Map App. The Providence Public Library maintains a list of outdoor-accessible WiFi from libraries and colleges. If you’re on Facebook, you can also enable the platform’s WiFi Locator to search for free hotspots in your area.

Some local libraries have WiFi hotspots available for loan, including Pawtucket, Providence Community Library, Warwick, and Barrington. Learn more.

Many tech and internet providers offer discount programs to help get people connected. We’ve curated a few opportunities below:

  • PCs for People sells mobile hotspots with the ability to prepay internet access for lower-income customers. Limit one per customer.
  • Verizon operates Rhode Island’s Lifeline program, providing discounted phone and internet service to qualified customers.
  • Cox offers discounted internet service for new customers, lower-income families, and those impacted by COVID-19. For existing customers, Cox WiFi hotspots are available statewide by signing in with your Cox login credentials. Check out this map for hotspot locations.
  • T-Mobile has T-Mobile Connect, a discounted smartphone plan with unlimited talk-text and 2GB of data.
  • Explore additional offers for low-cost internet services by searching the Everyone On Find Offers database.
  • Mobile Beacon via Tech Soup offers mobile hotspots to nonprofits to connect computers or mobile devices to the Internet from any location within the 4G coverage area.
People in a classroom learning computer skills

Training Programs

Building social engagement platforms that promote connection and digital literacy.

University of Rhode Island Cyber-Seniors is a local intergenerational program that connects college students with older adults so that older Rhode Islanders can get help with technology and ask questions about their own devices and apps & programs they want to learn (person-centered approach). This can help older adults connect with family & friends and get access to community programs or organizations that are available online.

The Cyber-Seniors Organization is based in Canada and offers a far-reaching worldwide program for older adults where they can call and get one-on-one help or take part in Zoom calls to help them learn how to use their devices and how technology can help them connect with friends/family. Material for this program is available in English, Spanish, and French.

Senior Planet , powered by OATS (Older Adults Technology Services), harnesses technology to change the way we age. Offering courses, programs, and activities help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends.

Generations On Line is national nonprofit that provides free internet training for seniors with instructions on every screen in large type and simple English.

URI Geriatric Education Center provide guides on setting up a gmail account to using facetime to connect with friends and family.

AARP TEK Workshops offer simple and targeted tutorials for various tech functions, ranging from using your smart phone calendar to changing your notification settings.

TechBoomers offers 100+ free tech-related courses. Used by some libraries.

Man sitting in front of a computer

Online Content

GetSetUp is on a mission to help those over 55 learn new skills, connect with others and unlock new life experiences. The social learning platform helps over 4.6 million older adults in 160 countries stay mentally and physically fit, creates economic opportunities through jobs and reskilling, and provides a community where people find meaning and purpose by sharing their knowledge and passions and forming new connections. Classes are taught by older adults on a highly interactive, custom-built video platform where older adults can connect during and in between classes. Classes are taught in English, Spanish, Hindi, and Mandarin. GetSetUp is now available to Rhode Island residents aged 55+, you can access these services by visiting: www.getsetup.io/partner/ri

The mission of The Village Common of RI (TVC) is to fundamentally change the experience of growing older here in RI by fostering the creation of communities of mutual support – Villages – across the state and by directly supporting their long-term sustainability. TVC offers numerous online activities, most of which are open to all who are interested. Registration is required to participate.

Well Connected and Spanish-language focused Bien Conectado, are telephone and online communities made up of participants, staff, facilitators, presenters, and other volunteers who care about each other and who value feeling connected.

Senior Planet offers courses, programs, and activities help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends.

Age Friendly RI’s Virtual Community Center offers a number of live and previously recorded classes and programs – ranging from fitness to tech.

People in a video chat window

Vitural Senior Center

Online resources and community for seniors from the comfort of your own home!

Learn more at agefriendlyri.org