As part of efforts to promote digital equity for older adults, the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging (OHA) – together with Cox Communications and Age-Friendly Rhode Island – today announced a partnership to equip older adults participating in OHA’s successful Project HELLO tele-buddy program with smart devices, internet service and technical support. This investment is made possible by a $10,000 grant from Cox Communications. OHA launched Project HELLO earlier this year to help homebound older adults combat social isolation by connecting with a vetted volunteer for weekly phone conversations.
“Access to digital tools is so important today,” said OHA Director Rosamaria Amoros Jones. “Too many older Rhode Islanders aren’t online, locking them out of the opportunities and support made possible by technology. Through digiAGE, we’re working across government, community and industry to get more people connected. I’m grateful to Cox Communications and the many other organizations who make this work possible and look forward to the impact this project will have.”
Through the Cox grant, Age-Friendly Rhode Island will work directly with Project HELLO participants to assess their digital needs and provide user-centric devices, training, and ongoing support. The program is scheduled to launch in January 2021. With over 500 volunteers signed up since April 2020, Project HELLO has been placing weekly and semi-weekly calls to older Rhode Islanders living in isolation, offering socialization and referrals to supportive services. For more information about Project HELLO or to sign up as a friend or volunteer, call the Point Helpdesk at 401.462.4444 or visit www.oha.ri.gov/ProjectHELLO.
“At Cox, we have long said that our company is committed to bringing us closer. Now, more than ever, it’s important we support those organizations that are looking out for our neighbors longing for human connection,” said Jay Allbaugh, senior vice president and region manager, Cox Communications. “OHA and digiAGE are making tremendous strides in closing the digital divide, and we are proud to support their efforts with this $10,000 grant.”
Rhode Island’s digiAGE Collaborative is comprised of a growing list of industry, government, academic, and community partners working together to bridge the digital divide for older adults through coordinated investments in smart devices, internet services, digital literacy training, and online content creation. According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 41 percent of Rhode Island adults age 65+ are not broadband users, with the least usage among older adults living in lower-income communities. Over 25 percent of older adults in the state aren’t online. A survey of state senior centers conducted by OHA showed an estimated 30,000 older adults living in the community do not have access to technology.
“Age-Friendly RI is a strong advocate for full digital inclusion of older adults, especially now when digital connectivity is necessary for almost every aspect of a happy and healthy life,” said Catherine Taylor, executive director of Age-Friendly RI. “We are delighted to partner with OHA and Cox Communications to assess the individual communications wants and needs of Project HELLO participants, and engage them confidently with the internet connection, smart devices, tech training and support, and online programming that meet those wants and needs. In the process, we hope to learn a lot that will give momentum to other digital inclusion initiatives for Rhode Island’s older adults.”
For more information about the digiAGE Collaborative and Rhode Island’s efforts to promote digital equity, visit www.oha.ri.gov/digiAGE.
About the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging
As Rhode Island’s designated state unit on aging, the Office of Healthy Aging empowers older adults, persons living with disabilities, and family caregivers to age strong. Through community partnerships and investments, we connect people to information and resources that promote healthy aging, and we advocate for strong laws and policies that protect and uplift our constituency.
About Cox Communications
Cox Communications is committed to creating meaningful moments of human connection through broadband applications and services. The largest private telecom company in America, we proudly serve six million homes and businesses across 18 states. We’re dedicated to empowering others to build a better future and celebrate diverse products, people, suppliers, communities and the characteristics that makes each one unique. Cox Communications is the largest division of Cox Enterprises, a family-owned business founded in 1898 by Governor James M. Cox.
About Age-Friendly Rhode Island
Based at Rhode Island College, Age-Friendly RI is a coalition of community and state agencies, healthcare and social service providers, individuals of all ages, advocacy and faith-based organizations, businesses, academic institutions and municipal leaders who are committed to healthy aging. https://www.agefriendlyri.org/is the site of Rhode Island’s statewide Virtual Community Center.