It started as Senior Planet’s virtual pilot program to connect older adults living in rural and low-density areas – digital deserts – to basic internet access…and now it’s a robust Senior Planet licensing program set to deliver our in-person Aging Connected programs in many locations going forward.
Deirdre Lee, Program Coordinator of Senior Planet Colorado, helped spearhead the first virtual pilot of the Senior Planet licensing program in Colorado. She’s now working with organizations like Pine River Public Library (PRL) to receive licensing to bring Senior Planet’s programs in-person, to communities who need them most. “We’re excited to deliver additional programs in areas we haven’t been able to before. We hope even more seniors can join the greater Senior Planet community,” affirms Lee.
Demand for e-materials grow
Prior to receiving licensing, PRL had strived for many years to provide additional digital services to La Plata County residents. “The demand for e-materials that they could access at home grew – as did the demand for learning resources to use those e-materials.’ says Becky Van Den Berg, Learning and Engagement Manager at PRL.
Our library motto is: “Connecting People to Possibilities” and everything about these Senior Planet classes fulfilled that motto”
“Once Zoom became such an important part of staying connected, PRL worked to connect our seniors to those resources…and we were very excited to get this licensing,” Van Den Berg notes.
PRL’s quest for licensing unfolded over a few months, starting in November of 2020. “And the community response was terrific!” Van Den Berg says. “Because we have been building and growing digital resources for year, it did not really change the dynamic or culture of the library. Our library motto is: “Connecting People to Possibilities” and everything about these Senior Planet classes fulfilled that motto.”
As programming took off, Chromebooks and laptops were provided to those who did not have access to them. “If they were comfortable coming into the library, we provided one-on-one tutorials to get them started before classes began. We grew our digital library from 12 Chromebooks to 24 and upgraded our laptops and made sure staff were trained on Zoom to answer questions,” explains Van Den Berg.
PRL’s successes only grew! From two elderly sisters who were able to connect on Zoom for the first time, to an elderly gentleman who desperately wanted to send photos to his daughter, PRL was able to connect older adults to technology and education to meet and exceed their goals.
Want Senior Planet Programs near you?
For those interested in bringing licensing to their organizations, Van Den Berg shared some advice: “Building and partnering with groups like Senior Planet to bring excellent curriculum into a digital desert is so important for the seniors in rural areas who may literally not know what they don’t know.”
“A great first start is reaching out to your local library. Libraries are constantly working to provide much-needed services to their patrons and they have the added advantage of being trusted sources of knowledge. An organization who recognizes the need – but maybe doesn’t have the reach to do much on their own – can work with their library to partner with and support these sorts of learning opportunities.”
PRL is expected to begin delivering in-person Senior Planet classes in April 2022.
This program is open to public, private, and 501(c)3 organizations that serve older adults. To attend an information session or for questions email [email protected].