WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center is partnering with the NCW Tech Alliance to provide technology assistance to seniors through an in-person pop-up event on November 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The free pop-up event will give local seniors, as well as others in the community, an opportunity to talk with a Digital Navigator to help answer technology questions. Digital Navigators have been trained to recognize members of the community who may be at risk of losing access to community services as a result of not having internet access or tools or knowledge to access online services.
The program is part of the NCW Tech Help initiative coordinated by the Tech Alliance. The program provides a one-stop resource for information about how to find affordable internet access, free or affordable digital devices and technology training, and one-on-one technical support.
According to the project website at ncwtechhelp.org, "NCW Tech Help is paving the way for a more connected tomorrow, where everyone has access to digital skills, devices, and the internet." The program serves residents of Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties, as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
Russ Alman, Director of Communcations and Development for the Senior Center, is also a policy board member for the Tech Alliance. "Before moving into communications roles, I spent the first 20-plus years of my career providing on-site technical support to homes and businesses. Many of my clients were seniors needing basic help accessing the internet and online services. From that experience, I've been very aware of the 'digital divide' that many seniors face. As more and more services move online, many seniors are being left behind. Internet access and technology literacy are becoming a basic requirement to access everything from paying bills to accessing the library to receiving health services. While there are many other at-risk groups as well, seniors are one group where I have the most intimate experience," Alman explained.
"When I learned about the NCW Tech Help program and specifically the technology pop-up events, I knew the Senior Center needed to get involved," he said. "We have over 2,000 members at the Senior Center, and I can tell you first-hand that, while the majority of seniors now own a smartphone, they were given the device because that's what you now get when you sign up for cell phone service. Most have never received even basic instruction on how to use features beyond making a phone call. There are certainly some tech-savvy seniors out there, but most of them need basic help on how to use their digital devices."
The Senior Center already hosts smartphone classes, taught by Bob Clarke, a local technology tutor who specializes in working with seniors. He holds both iPhone and Android classes twice per year. The classes are free to Senior Center members and are always full.
In addition, earlier this year, the Senior Center offered one-on-one smartphone tutoring, thanks to the assistance of their AmeriCorps volunteer, Hanna Walls. However, now that her year of service to the Senior Center has ended, the Senior Center has been looking for opportunities to continue to provide individual assistance with smartphones. The Technology Pop-Up program is a natural fit.
Alman hopes that the Senior Center and the Tech Alliance will be able to create a long-term partnership to provide the pop-up events on a regular basis beginning in 2024. "We squeezed in this first event at the beginning of the holiday season for 2023," but I'm hopeful that we can continue to build on this for the upcoming year," he said.
For more information about the NCW Tech Help initiative, as well as upcoming technology pop-up events, visit ncwtechhelp.org. For upcoming technology training and events at the Senior Center, visit their website at wenatcheeseniorcenter.com or contact Russ Alman at email@example.com or 509-433-7824.