Metta Fund

Connecting Seniors Across the Digital Divide

Tech Allies participant Emil using his iPad

Metta Fund is excited to share a guest post by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly Program Coordinator Debbie Uchida. Her story illustrates the positive power of the Tech Allies Program which utilizes technology to curb isolation and address the digital divide for older San Franciscans.

We expect that filling in the digital divide between older generations and newer generations will help to relieve the elder’s feelings of loneliness, isolation, and exclusion from society, as well as provide an endless amount of online resources and services.

With funds from the Metta Grant, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) and Community Technology Network (CTN) are able to deliver Tech Allies. Tech Allies is a new program that aims to connect elders, many whom are homebound, to the internet. We provide them with a device as well as the digital skill training they need in order to learn how to access the internet independently. By doing so, we expect that filling in the digital divide between older generations and newer generations will help to relieve the elder’s feelings of loneliness, isolation, and exclusion from society, as well as provide an endless amount of online resources and services. With CTN’s digital training experience and LBFE’s matched volunteer program, we are very hopeful that this program will be a success!

Two of our elder friends in the Tech Allies program have recently been introduced to the wonderful world of YouTube after a couple weeks of learning how to utilize their iPads, and I must admit, I have never seen anybody more excited about this website than these two. One of our elders, Emil, was looking up some of his all-time favorite singers such as Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Nina Simone – he even sang a few songs to me and it just filled me up with so much warmth and joy.

Our other elder, Una, was looking up artists whom she listened to while growing up in Jamaica, such as Bob Marley and John Holt. Una suffers from Paget’s disease which is a disease where one’s body generates new bone faster than normal, which causes bone pain, fractures, or deformities. For Una, her legs are being affected by this disease and she tends to struggle to walk around and do her daily activities. When I was at her house and we were browsing videos on YouTube together, she asked me to look up one of her all-time favorite artists, John Holt. She heard the first beat play in one of his songs titled, “The Tide Is High,” and what happened next left me absolutely speechless. Una got up from her seat so quickly and suddenly and began to sing out the top of her lungs and began dancing, completely forgetting about the pain in her legs. I have been visiting Una for about half a year now and I have never seen such a huge smile on her face, let alone seen her move around as much as she was. She kept singing and saying, “Oh John Holt, this takes me back!” Her happiness and vibrant energy was so contagious that her caretaker and I just had to get up and join her on the fun!