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Request for Proposals: Reducing Social Isolation Among Older Rural Adults Through the Use of Technology

June 6, 2019

Bader Philanthropies, Inc. is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for agencies interested in working with key community stakeholders to engage, train and support older adults in using technology to reduce social isolation, increase social and community engagement and improve quality of life.

Timeline Considerations

  • The application deadline is October 18, 2019.
  • Proposals will be considered by the Board of Directors in January 2020.
  • Funds can be expended over a two-year time period beginning in February 2020. Projects should be completed by December 31, 2021.


  • Geography: The geographic area of focus is Northeastern Wisconsin, specifically Brown, Calumet, Door, Kewaunee, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Waupaca and Winnebago counties.  Projects can be community-wide, city-wide, county- or multi-county focused. Services must be provided in at least one of these counties, but, the sponsoring/applying organizations need not be physically based in these counties. 
  • Organizations: Organizations eligible include, but, are not limited to nonprofit organizations, schools, public and private institutions of higher education, health organizations, libraries and/or governmental organizations. Multi-agency efforts are strongly encouraged. The RFP focus is on community-based, multi-agency collaborative approaches.

Social Isolation and Technology

Social isolation among older adults is considered an unseen epidemic. Recent studies show nearly half of older adults will experience social isolation. It is linked to a broad range of negative physical and psychological outcomes that can be life threatening. This growing problem of social isolation is having a disproportionate impact on older adults in rural areas. The increased challenge of social isolation in rural areas is due to geographic isolation, limited access to reliable transportation and, reduced family/social networks as young people move to urban areas for employment.

Technology has the potential to play a transformative role in helping older, rural adults decrease the effects of social isolation. By providing older adults with stimulating, meaningful and enjoyable activities, various technologies can enhance their sense of connection (to family, friends and community), add to their overall quality of life and help them live independently in their communities of choice.

However, technology on its own cannot eliminate social isolation completely. The increased use of technology must be combined with increased community engagement, human connectivity and opportunities for rural residents of all ages to work together to promote healthy aging.

Project Success Factors

There are several factors that will be essential for successful project proposals, including:

  • Specific plans for the identification/selection of socially isolated older adults — It is important that participating community collaboratives detail the process they will use to identify and engage socially isolated older adults. In rural areas it is often difficult to find and involve older adults due to the physical isolation of large distances. Specific plans will be required as part of the grant review process to ensure those who are socially isolated will be targeted.
  • Knowledge and resource sharing among partners — By working together, the community collaboratives will bring the knowledge and resources of multiple organizations to the process of identifying and engaging older adults who are hard to reach and engage in social activities. It is encouraged that knowledge and resources be shared across agencies encouraging organizations who do not normally connect to coordinate and work with one another.
  • Intergenerational Approaches — Projects are encouraged to use intergenerational support services for technical education when possible. Technology lends itself to multi-generational learning. Youth and younger adults are more knowledgeable and comfortable using technology. The technical know-how and creativity of younger people can be combined with the needs, interests and wisdom of older adults to explore new ways. Community-based services, programs and businesses can use technology to connect with the old and young. Older adults and young people can connect in their areas of shared interest to be better served by local community agencies, businesses and government. Community programs are encouraged to explore multiple approaches to intergenerational technology education with a special encouragement for methods that inspire all ages to be creative. 
  • Detailed Project Plan with Measurable Goals — Successful projects will include a detailed plan that measures the following success measures:
  • How will socially isolated older adults be identified and engaged?
  • What technology will be used and why?
  • How will the technology education be delivered?
  • What are the desired individual and community outcomes?

It is suggested that projects will serve a minimum of 100 older adults and, if intergenerational approaches are used, involve a minimum of 50 young people.

  • Outcome-based Evaluation — Successful proposals will be asked to provide measurable outcomes. This will provide the data and evidence to illustrate that other rural communities can adopt similar approaches to help older adults reduce social isolation. An outside evaluator will be available to assist applicants in the development of measurable outcomes and the collection of data. The grantee will be expected to execute the outcome measurements.
  • Convening process — Successful projects will be required to participate in bi-annual gatherings with other grantees to share results, outcome measurements, challenges and lessons learned. The final outcomes and lessons learned will be shared throughout rural Wisconsin and nationally at a final convening held in 2022.


The application can be found on the Bader Philanthropies Online Portal. If you are new to Bader Philanthropies, please click the ‘New User’ link.

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