Innovative “AARP Foundation Connecting To Community” Pilot Program Helps Seniors Combat Isolation Through Social Media and Technology

WASHINGTON, DC- Forty-eight District seniors graduated from an innovative technology program today entitled AARP Foundation Connecting to CommunityTM. The program is a joint project of the AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity,Family Matters of Greater Washington, one of the nation’s oldest, nationally-accredited social services organizations, Comcast, NETGEAR and Older Adults Technology Services.

The program, which was launched in May 2013, is designed to combat the issue of social isolation in older adults by connecting individuals age 50 and older to activities where they can adopt new skills, increase social networks, and receive technology training, hardware and internet connection. Program participants received iPad tablets, Comcast High-Speed Internet service, six months of volunteer-led instruction, and training and support for participants to help increase social engagement through technology.

The pilot engaged with this initial group of 48 seniors to test the feasibility of training and equipping seniors in the use of information and communications technology. A second group of 50 seniors began the program in August and will conclude in February 2014.

Upon completion of the second group, Dr. Erin York Cornwell of Cornell University will undertake a study to determine the success of the program in meeting its goal of reducing isolation in seniors. The study aims tomeasure the program’s impact on technology skills and use, social connectedness, perceived loneliness, and ability to pursue personal goals such as improved health or capacity for independent living. If successful, the pilot could provide a basis for a larger national expansion of the model.

According to AARP Foundation Senior Vice President Maxine B. Baker, “Nearly one in five older Americans are faced with social isolation as they age. Many are unfamiliar with the social media tools that young people use with such regularity. We hope to bridge that age gap by helping older adults become more comfortable with social media and technology that can help them reengage via social networks with friends and family who don’t live close by.”

Claude Butler, 60, graduated today and spoke about the changes in his life since taking the course in social media and technology.  “I don’t go anywhere without my iPad now,” he stated. “At first, I was a little bit intimidated, because I’d never been on a computer in my life. But now, I use it to stay in touch with my friends and family who don’t live in Washington, D.C. I love Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare. It’s helped me find lost friends that I haven’t seen in a while.”

“Social media can help connect seniors to family and to their community,” noted Tonya Jackson Smallwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of Family Matters of Greater Washington. “Through this program, we have seen our seniors expand their horizons not just to connect with others socially but also to explore art, literature and other resources via the Internet. It’s had a far-reaching impact on those who have participated in our pilot program.”

AARP Foundation has collaborated with a nationally-recognized expert in providing technology trainings to older adults, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), to develop a training curriculum, train and support volunteer instructors, and develop an assessment tool for collecting outcome measures.

Comcast is the High Speed Internet service provider for program participants.  “Comcast is proud of our partnership with the AARP Foundation and Family Matters on this important initiative,” said Donna Rattley Washington, Regional Vice President of Government Affairs and Community Investment, Comcast.  “The Internet is a life-changing technology and has quickly become an essential part of how we live and therefore we are excited about what this pilot may teach us regarding how technology can enhance the lives of seniors.”

NETGEAR®is providing WiFi routers for program participants. Family Matters provides volunteers and oversees recruitment of participants in the DC metro area for this pilot.

About Family Matters of Greater Washington (https://www.familymattersdc.org)
Family Matters of Greater Washington is a non-government, nonprofit organization accredited by the Council on Accreditation Services for Families and Children, Inc. and the American Camping Association.  Formerly known as Family and Child Services of Washington, D.C., Inc., Family Matters was founded in 1882 and has been an integral part of the Washington, D.C. community for more than 130 years. One of the oldest, nationally accredited social services organizations in the nation, Family Matters provides comprehensive, accessible, low-fee services to thousands of residents of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Family Matters of Greater Washington is a member of the Child Welfare League of America and the Alliance for Children and Families.

About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, strengthen communities, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is AARP’s affiliated charity. Learn more at https://www.aarpfoundation.org.

About Comcast Corporation:
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal.  Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses.  NBCUniversal operates 30 news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.  Visithttps://www.comcastcorporation.comfor more information

About Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)
OATS is a New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of technology to change the way we age. Since 2004, OATS has delivered more than 14,000 free technology-training classes to older adults through more than 70 partner locations in New York City. To learn more, visithttps://www.oats.org.

About NETGEAR, Inc.
(NASDAQGM: NTGR) is a global networking company that delivers innovative products to consumers, businesses and service providers. For consumers, the company makes high performance, dependable and easy to use home networking, storage and digital media products to connect people with the Internet and their content and devices. For businesses, NETGEAR provides networking, storage and security solutions without the cost and complexity of big IT. The company also supplies top service providers with retail-proven, mobile broadband solutions for their customers on the go. NETGEAR products are built on a variety of proven technologies such as wireless, Ethernet and Powerline, with a focus on reliability and ease-of-use. NETGEAR products are sold in approximately 45,000 retail locations around the globe, and through approximately 40,000 value-added resellers. The company’s headquarters are in San Jose, Calif., with additional offices in over 25 countries. NETGEAR is an ENERGY STAR® partner. More information is available atwww.NETGEAR.comor by calling (408) 907-8000. Connect with NETGEAR attwitter.com/NETGEAR and https://www.facebook.com/NETGEAR.

Media Contact 
Jennifer Devlin (703) 876-1714, jennifer.devlin@cox.net