Tech Buddies program provides internet access to residents in need

The town of Brookline is offering a pilot program to keep seniors connected to the internet during the pandemic.

Low-income seniors aged 60 and over and adults with disabilities living alone can get a free tablet and / or internet service for one year, as well as technical support, through the Tech Buddies pilot program launched last year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to help low-income families access the internet and many communities have responded, but many low-income seniors have lost the ability to access the internet through public libraries and other inexpensive or free means, ”said Fire Chief John Sullivan, director of the Brookline Office of Emergency Management. “This program aims to connect with seniors who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and who are, in many cases, the most isolated due to the pandemic. ”

Emergency Management received a $ 28,000 grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in April to launch the pilot program.

So far, the program has prequalified 47 people and delivered 18 tablets. One recipient explained that she was averse to the technology, but was delighted to hear that a volunteer was available to deliver the tablet, help set up internet access, and provide follow-up support.

During these home births, accredited volunteers provide basic education and offer to return if necessary so that participants gain the confidence they need to use their tablets. The program provides remote, volunteer-based technical support for all participants, as well as a workbook with easy-to-follow large print instructions for everything from charging the tablet to calling Zoom.

Participants who do not yet have Internet service can receive Internet through a low-income Comcast program; the grant will cover the first 12 months of service. Participants who don’t already own a device other than a phone will receive a preloaded tablet with links to websites and apps to help them get started. The tablet also comes with a protective case and 12 months of free antivirus software offered by Lookout Antivirus.

“It is vitally important that older people can stay connected to their communities, loved ones and important health resources while staying safe in the midst of the pandemic, and we hope this program will facilitate that for seniors who have few other options, ”Sullivan said. “I encourage all Brookline residents who qualify and need this assistance to contact us immediately. “

Eligible residents include people aged 60 and over and low-income adults of any age with a disability. Those who live on Brookline Housing Authority properties and those who participate in other public assistance programs are eligible, as are those earning $ 25,760 or less and couples earning $ 34,840.

Call 617-730-2329 or email [email protected] for more information.

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