Seattle nonprofit uses a SmartLab to reduce social isolation for seniors

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.
Mon, 2017-03-13 06:00 -- Compassionate C...

Seattle's Kin On Nursing Home accepted its first patient in 1987. At the time, it was the first Chinese nursing home operated by the Chinese community in the nation. As the Kin On website explains, they developed a unique program to meet the cultural and healthcare needs of its residents -- offering a bilingual, professional staff, a predominantly Chinese diet and observing Chinese traditions of respect and dignity. As Kin On expanded over the years, so did efforts to meet the changing needs of the seniors it serves – including tech literacy to help them engage in today's digital world. – Liz Enbysk

From a drop-in open lab equipped with Windows 10 PCs to one-on-one tutoring and classes on Internet basics, the Kin On SmartLab is part of the organization's Healthy Living Program that promotes physical, mental and social aspects of good health for seniors.

The lab operates in Kin On's 2,600 square foot community center, where craft classes, nutrition seminars and the like also are held.

In a post on Seattle's Tech Talk Blog, a Kin On program coordinator says the goal of the SmartLab is to "improve social isolation, to increase interaction through email, technology literacy and access to government resources online."

Jessica Wong says Kin On serves many immigrants, mostly from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and that social isolation is a major problem. Class offerings key on that need, for example:

  • You've Got Mail! Keeping in Touch with Friends through Email
  • What's the Hype About Skype? Communicating in Real Time with Friends Near and Far

Kin On continues to fine-tune its tech literacy efforts. "We hope to grow to serve more people and also offer a larger variety of classes," Wong said. "For this coming year, we have improved our methods and how we teach by simplifying the classes with more repetition and practice time."

Grants for digital equity
Seattle's Technology Matching Fund, which provided grant money to launch the Kin On SmartLab, provides up to $50,000 for digital equity projects. City dollars are matched by the community's contribution of volunteer labor, materials, professional services or cash.

According to the city's IT department, goals of the fund are to:

  • Increase access to free or low-cost broadband
  • Empower residents with digital literacy skills
  • Ensure affordable, available and sufficient devices and technical support

In 2016, the city awarded 10 community organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds.

Related articles:
Could your city's old folks use a helping hand from new technology?
Sharing economy newcomer targets senior loneliness and financial sustainability


This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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