• 21/03/2024

UTSA, OATS closing technology gap for older adults in San Antonio | UTSA Today | UTSA

The NIH grant is funding the distribution of tablets and a five-week technology training course for older adults at 12 senior centers across the city. After they have completed the technology training course, the participants will take an online nutrition class designed by Ullevig and her team.

“The main goal is to see if we can improve their diet quality and reduce food insecurity. We also aim to improve their knowledge, use and access of technology,” Ullevig said. “We hope to improve social isolation and loneliness. If older adults can’t get to the center, they can socialize online in this study. We’re in a technology-dependent world, and there are people who are getting left out of it.”

Before the pandemic, senior centers provided hot meals in a congregate setting, opportunities for socializing and educational outreach. But many of these centers closed for months after March 2020. During the closures, the aggregate meal service transitioned to distributing the five meals via twice-a-week curbside pickup and delivery for those unable to pick up their meals.

At a time when food insecurity has reached new heights, many local older adults have been isolated without access to internet technologies, compounding these challenges.

That is changing with the NIH grant.

“By joining forces with UTSA and COSA, we are able to provide 19, five-week courses that delivered 228 training sessions and to distribute 181 Generation 9 iPads in the hands of older adults in our community in the first quarter of 2023,” said Darryl Greer, OATS south regional program manager. “This kind of digital equity is a lifeline for people who otherwise might not have access to technology, and therefore, risk exclusion from the modern world.”

“Technology is not going away. We are focused on the trainings we provide, while simultaneously working with organizations and institutions that can amplify our efforts.”

In all, OATS will provide devices and training to an estimated 400 participants.

Ullevig is working with a team of UTSA researchers to complete the project. Her co-investigators include Erica Sosa, associate dean for research and professor in HCAP’s Department of Public Health; public health professors Meizi He and Zenongyin; and Tianou Zhangassistant professor in HCAP’s Department of Kinesiology.

The researchers worked with the City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services and OATS to implement a plan to increase access to and develop a comprehensive understanding of technology among San Antonio’s older adult population. OATS provided the devices, internet access, tech support and a five-week training course to the target population.

UTSA is providing an online, 15-week digital nutrition intervention course, following the technology course.