Generations on Line, a nonprofit that provides free internet literacy training, access and skills to the elderly, is expanding into five rural Wisconsin counties through a $60,000 grant by Bader Philanthropies, Inc., one of southeastern Wisconsin’s top 10 foundations. The grant, distributed over two years, will allows Generations on Line to partner with local leaders in Vilas, Oneida, Iron, Lincoln and Price counties to implement at least 10 new Sip and Swipe Café ® programs that teach basic tablet device skills through hands-on training with older adults.
“The grant provides training, tech and management support; program marketing to new Café locations and hosts; and other Cafés operating in the state,” the release states. “The program aims to help isolated seniors in rural areas, who are some of the hardest to reach, tackle the difficult digital divide.”
“Bader Philanthropies has an unwavering commitment to enhancing the quality of life of older adults,” said Daniel J. Bader, president and CEO of Bader Philanthropies. “Generations on Line’s Sip and Swipe Café programs do a masterful job of bridging the technology gap in rural Wisconsin by teaching older adults internet literacy skills that help them stay connected with loved ones near and far, expand their minds, and experience a world of possibilities.”
In the counties of Vilas, Oneida, Iron, Lincoln and Price, there are nearly 26,500 older adults, of which 39 percent could be digitally illiterate, according to national data from Pew Research Center. This is the only digital, interactive training program made specifically for seniors. With on-screen, large-type instructions to guide users step-by-step, as well as in-person coaches, the program addresses specific needs that help elderly learners overcome short-term memory challenges while educating them on basic tablet device usage, online searching, email, video calling, app use, photos, and internet safety, the release states.
The new community partners and host locations are in settings that are familiar and safe for seniors, including:
The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Vilas County will sponsor two Sip and Swipe Cafés:
• Walter E. Olson Memorial Library at 203 N Main Street, Eagle River. Please call Sara Klemann at 715-479-8070 for more information.
• St. Germain PrimeTimers at St. Germain Community Center, 545 State Highway 155, St. Germain. Please call Milt Klingsporn at 715-479-2028 for more information.
The Frank B. Koller Memorial Library will host a Sip & Swipe Café at 2 US-51, Manitowish Waters. Please call 715-543-2700 for more information.
ADRC of Oneida County will host three Sip and Swipe Cafés:
• ADRC of Oneida County at 100 W. Keenan Street, Rhinelander. Please call 715-369-6170 for more information.
• Demmer Library Three Lakes at 6961 West School Street, Three Lakes. Please call 715-546-3391 for more information.
• The Minocqua Library at 415 Menominee Street, Minocqua. Please call 715-356-4437 for more information.
Iron County Human Services will host a Café at the Hurley Senior Center at 308 3rd Avenue South, Hurley. Please call 715-561-2108 for more information.
Merrill Enrichment Center is hosting a Café at 303 N. Sales Street, Merrill. Sessions for 2019 are booked, but interested learners may call 715-536-4226 to be put on the waiting list for 2020.
Café locations are still being determined. Interested learners may contact Annie Knudson at 715-762-7575.
Most of the new Sip and Swipe Café locations are starting in October of 2019 after completing a training session to educate the champions, who oversee the program at host locations, and the coaches, volunteers who run the programs, the release states. Coaches work to troubleshoot and motivate, while the champions manage the hardware and Wi-Fi.
Lincoln County’s Sip & Swipe Café launched in early September and has seen an overwhelming response to the program. Two classes are currently running and there is a waiting list to join future sessions.
“There is much more of a need in our community that we ever imagined,” said Tammie Mrachek, champion of the Merrill Enrichment Center’s Sip & Swipe Café. “Learners are receiving a valuable service that empowers them to be more independent, builds their self-esteem, and allows them to communicate more easily with their families.”
Coaches help two or three seniors at a time, so that learners can go at their own pace and be properly supported as they navigate the program. Rather than using intimidating computer labs, Cafés are run to best meet the needs of their community in warm, friendly, open environments, providing a conducive space for learning. Each learner is provided a 23-point skill checklist. At the end of each session, learners check off the items they learned. Upon completion of the checklist, a learner “graduates” and receives a personalized certificate of accomplishment.
“You truly witness a full circle of emotions as learners enter the program unsure, but leave with newfound confidence in their technical abilities,” said Mrachek.
In a recent survey, one of the program participants shared learning, “How to send pictures and explore ordering from Amazon! I discovered lots of new things so this was very worthwhile!” – Janice S.
Currently, there are 62 Sip and Swipe Cafés throughout Wisconsin. Forty-two of these have been funded by Bader Philanthropies in 16 rural counties to meet the needs of elderly residents. This additional funding makes it possible for 10 or more additional locations in these five counties, which brings the total number of Sip and Swipe Cafés in Wisconsin to more than 70 within 26 counties. This grant will allow Generations on Line to serve at least 800 seniors through the Cafés and more than 1,000 older adults in Wisconsin through the downloadable free app called “Easy Tablet Help for Seniors” for families to use with their older friends and relatives.
“We have to help those who have never used technology to see its value,” said Katie Burke, administrator and Sip & Swipe Café project manager for Generations on Line. “Using the internet enables an older adult to be connected, involved, healthier and more independent. Many studies show the correlation between health and wellbeing and internet use.”
According to the Pew Research Center, rural Americans are about twice as likely as those who live in urban or suburban settings to never use the internet. The positive impact of the Cafés in similar communities has been substantial for participants, including improved safety, physical health and mental health. The most recent survey data among Sip & Swipe Cafés show that 77 percent of participants say they will continue to use the technology to expand their knowledge and connect with family and friends. Additionally, nearly half (46 percent) will use it to access wellness information and 43 percent intend to use it to connect to their doctor and healthcare systems.
“Through the Sip and Swipe Cafés, they gain the confidence that comes with learning new skills, broaden their horizons – and according to ours and other studies – improve their well-being,” said Burke. “Age should not be a barrier to technology. These are the folks who taught us so much; now it is our turn to give back.”
With funding from this grant, Generations on Line provides four android tablets per venue, support, training, curriculums, and materials to host Sip & Swipe Café locations. They also promote family use of the app, enabling family members to coach their older friends or relatives. Pilot programs have proven many learners become so attached to the tablet technology they invest in their own tablets. Others choose to use the center’s public access tablets. Some learners will graduate to become coaches and some Café centers invest in additional hardware. Organic growth continues with funded sites recommending the program to other sites to connect with Generations on Line.