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Neighborhood House Senior Center Helps Older Adults Bridge the Digital Divide

Staff and volunteers at the Neighborhood House Association Senior Center delivered hot meals and holiday gift bags to local seniors in December. The project was funded by one of two grants SDSCF provided to reduce social isolation among older San Diegans.

Neighborhood House Association (NHA) Senior Center works to support low-income, homeless, and older people of color by providing services that link older people to healthy meals, exercise, social activities, and emotional support. 

Prior to the pandemic, the center actively served 70-100 seniors annually with its programming. Since COVID-19 began, however, Neighborhood House Association Senior Center has offered all its programming and services virtually. According to Dr. Mona Minton, general manager for programs and clinics, no more than seven people have participated in the center’s virtual programming since the pandemic began. 

This was not a surprise. “When the pandemic happened we knew there was very little access for us to get in touch with our clients. We knew our seniors did not have tablets, laptops, and even smartphones. Over 35+ of our seniors have flip-phones,” said Dr. Minton. 

Enter San Diego Seniors Community Foundation’s (SDSCF) No Senior Alone initiative. “From the beginning, we had expressed to SDSCF, we were in dire need of electronics that could get our clients in contact with us to participate in all our virtual services.” 

The digital divide is in stark relief among disadvantaged seniors in San Diego. Many do not have internet service or internet-capable devices. But for Neighborhood House clients to receive wellness checks, participate in exercise classes, and socialize through programs like art classes and bingo, they needed to be able to get online. 

The center’s virtual programs saw amazing emotional reactions and responses from seniors who had the resources to participate. “When they’re logging in they see their friends. They’re so excited, they’ll have sidebar conversations checking in asking how each other is doing,” said Dr. Minton. 

After receiving a $24,445 grant from SDSCF, the center is now in the process of purchasing tablets and data cards so its clients can connect to the internet. After the devices are issued, the center’s goal is to have 20-25 older people participating in their weekly classes by January 2021. 

“We were in dire need of electronics that could get our clients in contact with us to participate in all our virtual services.”

In addition, SDSCF gifted Neighborhood House with a mini-grant of $2,840 to spread joy to isolated seniors during a holiday season where one in three older people is expected to be alone. SDSCF has awarded more than $30,000 in grants from its No Senior Alone initiative to bring holiday cheer to local seniors. At NHA Senior Center, the holiday grant will be used to deliver warm meals and holiday goodie bags to its clients. 

Senior center clients Eva Phillips and Orzine Price were happy to get a friendly holiday visit from the Neighborhood House team.

As a foundation, we’re proud to work with organizations like Neighborhood House that provide care and resources for low-income, homeless, and older people of color in our region. Thank you to Dr. Minton and the NHA Senior Center team for working to improve not only virtual connection but quality of life for older people in San Diego. 

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