The 21st-century senior center has a MacBook as well as a bingo machine. Perhaps a smartphone and a Scrabble board. That's because center managers are investing in technology to improve the quality of life of their seniors.
Computer, video, and internet technology, in its many forms, provides mental stimulation, encourages socialization, improves overall wellness, and even enhances mental well-being. For those unable to attend a center, technology improves home-based community and social support objectives.
But senior center managers like you face a dilemma:
Who's going to pay for all this tech?
Managers have long struggled to manage technology budgets for day center, home-based, and hybrid services. Then the pandemic hit, which reduced the demand for senior care facilities and caused further financial problems.
Now, finally, there could be a solution. The American Rescue Plan, announced in March, promises to increase funding for community services like senior centers. But few managers know if they're eligible or how to apply for funding. This blog post clears up the confusion.
It's been a tough year for senior center managers and the seniors who rely on them. COVID-19 caused day centers to roll down the blinds and close their doors, while shelter-in-place policies meant some seniors went for weeks, even months, without seeing another human being.
As social isolation and loneliness skyrocketed among older adults, managers lacked the technology to reach out to them.
Technology has the power to change the lives of seniors, both in daycare and home environments. The problem is cost. Laptops, tablets, webcams, and all the other tech managers need to improve communication and socialization cost money.
President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes a raft of measures he hopes will stimulate the economy after the financial impact of the pandemic. Most senior center managers have heard about the key elements of the act—the $1,400 stimulus checks, for example, or small business grants — but few know about the financial support available to senior centers.
Many senior centers already receive support from the Older Americans Act (OAA), which dates back to 1965 and funds the critical community-based supportive services seniors rely on. Biden's American Rescue Plan earmarks an additional $1.43 billion for OAA-supported programs, and center managers can use these funds for various services, such as counseling, nutrition, and, yes, technology improvements.
There's another silver lining for cash-strapped managers. Just this month, Biden announced a 33% percent increase in funds for the Administration for Community Living, which supports home and community-based initiatives for older adults like senior centers. That's an additional $751 million available to managers who want to develop technology in their recreational centers or improve digital communications with seniors at home.
Federal funding for senior centers is a complicated beast, and securing financial support is notoriously difficult. However, both the American Rescue Act and additional funding for the Administration for Community Living mean there are resources available to center managers who want to make technology enhancements.
The easiest way to apply for a grant is online at Grants.gov, where you can search for funding opportunities. (Tip: Search for "senior center" at the top of the page.) Typically, the Administration for Community Living—which administers funding for both OCAA-funded programs under the American Rescue Plan and its own grants — posts details about funding opportunities as and when they come available.
At the time of writing, the Administration for Community Living had grants available to modernize senior centers, with a closing date of July 26. Successful applicants could receive, on average, $750 to make technology improvements.
Here are some additional tips when applying for tech funds for your senior center:
While the latest technology provides older adults with multiple socialization benefits, some seniors are reluctant to digitize their life. You can overcome this hurdle by:
The American Rescue Plan and other federal and state funding help managers invest in technology for older adults that visit their centers. By applying for a grant and using Televeda to scale your new tech, you can enhance the quality of life of your visitors by improving communications and social isolation.
Do you want to scale the technology in your senior center? Contact Televeda for a demo and learn more about funding now.