Vacca, non-profits team up to put seniors online

(L-r) Boston Road R.A.I.N. Senior Center director Rosemary Durso, Thomas Kamber of OATS, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, and Per Scholas’ Damien Howard, Plinio Ayala and Kenneth Walker at the ribbon cutting inaugurating the new computer training program at the center on June 6. - Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Vacca's office

Councilman Jimmy Vacca has teamed up with several non-profits at the Boston Road R.A.I.N. senior center to ensure seniors are included in the information age.

Along with the City Council, Vacca’s providing funding to a new, innovative program to get seniors online. The technology skills program, which will allow the elderly to use computers in their own homes, is an example of the wellness and enrichment programs Vacca’s been promoting as chair of the council’s Senior Centers Subcommittee. 

Computer-training sessions are held at the Elias Karmon R.A.I.N. Center, 2424 Boston Road, allowing seniors to manage hardware, explore the Internet, send e-mails, use Microsoft Word and conduct basic budgeting on Microsoft Excel.

 “The senior population is underserved as far as technology goes.  The problem is even greater in low-income communities,” said Plinio Ayala, president and CEO of Per Scholas, a non-profit firm known for providing computers to low-income Bronx residents.  The group has expanded its operation and agreed to provide home computers to seniors.

“By knowing how to use the technology, seniors can connect to their family and the larger world,”  Ayala continued. 

Per Scholas has connected more than 1,100 seniors to computers, and hope to double that number by next year.

Older Adults Technology Services works with R.A.I.N. centers to provide training before the seniors receive their computers.

“OATS has taught over 3,000 seniors to use computers since 2004,” Thomas Kamber, executive director of OATS, said. 

“Technology is an essential tool for connecting to the world and for communicating with loved ones,” he added.

Vacca visited R.A.I.N.’s computer room on Thursday, June 5, while one such training session was already in progress.

“It’s my pleasure to sponsor this program with my partners,” Vacca told the class in training. “This is something that years ago we could only dream about – seniors on computers.”

He explained that he too was skeptical of the computers’ power, but now feels they are an essential key to communication. 

“E-mail is a great way to stay in touch with relatives,” Vacca explained. “Bringing this to you in the community is important. It shows seniors can get with it when it comes to technology.”

Ayala said the program wouldn’t be possible without Jimmy Vacca or R.A.I.N.

“We need strong partners like R.A.I.N., who open up their centers and give us the opportunity to provide training and computers to their constituents,” Ayala stated. “It reduces issues of isolation existing for seniors, who now feel part of a greater world around them.”

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