Seniors First Bridges the Digital Divide to Empower Seniors in Florida

Seniors First Inc, an Orlando-based senior services provider, recently launched Project Connect to address social isolation at scale by leveraging the latest technology for seniors at home. In partnership with Claris Healthcare, Seniors First is able to offer remotely managed tablets to seniors at home and then deliver custom virtual programming to improve their well-being. The following case study explores their innovative approach to implementing and operating this comprehensive program.

Empowering Seniors: The Foundations of Seniors First Inc.

Founded in 1966, Seniors First, Inc. has long been dedicated to enriching the lives of seniors through a variety of programs and services. As the lead agency for the CCE/HCE in Orange, Polk, and Seminole Counties, Seniors First offers an array of programs, including Senior Nutrition Programs, Guardianship, Stepping Stone Medical Equipment Bank, and Community Food Pantry.

Seniors First’s Senior Meals on Wheels Program served a remarkable 355,547 meals in 2022. The program provides hot, chilled, and frozen meals each week to approximately 650 seniors from eight distribution sites across Orange County, Florida. With support from over 300 volunteers, Meals on Wheels promotes better nutrition and community connections.

Combating Social Isolation through Project Connect

With the availability of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds in 2021, Seniors First embarked on Project Connect, a visionary initiative to use technology as a means of addressing the growing epidemic of social isolation and loneliness among seniors.

After a thorough selection process, Seniors First chose Claris Companion® from Claris Healthcare, a tablet-based solution developed specifically for older seniors available in both English and Spanish. The tablets, designed with user-friendliness in mind, offer both personalized communication, daily engagement, and the delivery of virtual programming. Activities configured by Seniors First include brain-stimulating games, virtual travel, facilitated virtual events, video calls and messaging with family and friends, and access to curated websites.

Ensuring seniors’ safety online was of paramount importance of Project Connect. Claris Companion allowed Seniors First to meticulously curate the tablet experience, protecting seniors from external threats. This approach allowed seniors to embrace technology without compromising their personal information.

Rollout, Training, and Virtual Events

The initial rollout of Project Connect involved distributing 220 tablets to Seniors First’s Meals on Wheels clients. A team of 33 trained volunteers played a pivotal role in providing personalized onboarding, supported by staff from Seniors First’s head office. Virtual events became the cornerstone of the program, offering engaging activities such as online group bingo, watercolor painting, Spanish group meet-ups, history classes, virtual vacations, trivia, virtual library, gardening, and health presentations including nutrition, chronic disease, CPR and first aid.

The following charts provide a snapshot of the program’s success over a 90 day period, with seniors using the tablets for a range of activities from games and internet browsing to exercise videos and virtual events with their community.

Seniors First Usage Data

Transforming Lives and Fostering Connections

At its core, Project Connect, has proven successful in the fight against senior social isolation. By seamlessly integrating technology from Claris Healthcare, Seniors First has created a blueprint that can be replicated across the state of Florida. This initiative demonstrates that the right technology, thoughtfully implemented and supported by caring staff can amplify human connections, enabling seniors to share experiences and forge friendships regardless of distance.

We’ve received a lot of feedback from seniors enrolled in the program but this testimonial captures the impact of Project Connect on its seniors:

User Quote from Seniors First