Back Row: Paul Dukes, Yolanda Lloyd-Flemming, Mary Etta Washington, Thelma Kelly, Gloria Anderson, Muriel Henderson, Elizabeth Epps, Dorothy Higgins, Robena Young, Ella Ruth Ellison, Veronica Johnson, Betty Jacobs, David Belton
Middle Row: Sallie Cuff, Johnnie Wright, Renetta Davis, Opal Brown, Carrie Ellison, Blondell Brown, Naomi Wilson, Charlotte West, Queen Deveaux
Front: Jessie Sinkler, Linda McCants (not pictured Margaret Burnette)
BAMBERG, SC—Senior citizens aged 60 years and up from Richland County recently completed a four-session digital literacy learning program at Bible Way Church of Atlas Road in Columbia conducted by Palmetto Care Connections (PCC), a state-wide, non-profit telehealth organization.
The program was part of a pilot funded by the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the S.C. Department on Aging to help 100 seniors who live in rural communities with digital literacy training, a free digital tablet and free cellular service for 12 months.
Director of the Senior Ministry at Bible Way Church and Director of the Alzheimer’s Care Project at the Dream Center Sallie Cuff said, “When I look and see all these seniors, it’s really inspiring. It helps me to realize that without this program most of these people would not be able to connect to the outside, especially after COVID. I see a new life and an awakening. At least five of the participants are 80 years and older – one is 87 – I’m sure they never would have thought they could do what they’ve seen their grandchildren do with tablets. As seniors, we’re not dying – we’re thriving, especially when we’re given the chance to thrive. I am so grateful to Palmetto Care Connections and to Kay Hightower with the Office on Aging for including us.”
Senior citizens completed hands-on training using a digital tablet and learned skills such as how to send and receive photos and emails, connect with family and friends using video, search the internet for information, play mind-stimulating games and connect with their doctor for virtual telehealth appointments. PCC will provide ongoing technical support for the seniors who complete the program.
Class participant Gloria Anderson said, “This class was very informative. I learned about sending emails, taking pictures and how to find photos, change the settings, and how to use Google Classroom. And I learned about You Tube. I’m just fascinated with all this!”
Participant Muriel Henderson, a former teacher and guidance counselor said, “It’s good for brains to keep thinking and learning. It keeps you abreast of new technology and it’s also good because it helps you keep up with grandchildren. My granddaughter is four and she knows more than I do about my phone. We learned about contacting our medical providers so we can do some things from home. Many of us can use this to our advantage so we are not going to the doctor’s office all the time.”
Paul Dukes, Army Veteran and member of the Bible Way Church Senior Enrichment Ministry said, “The biggest thing is not to be afraid of the computer. It’s very easy, simple as one, two, three. You just have to trust the process. This class is very much needed. If you don’t learn technology, you will be left behind. Palmetto Care Connections is doing a great service for seniors in South Carolina and the rural areas.”
“The South Carolina Department on Aging works with a network of regional and local organizations to develop and manage services that help seniors remain independent in their homes and in their communities. SCDOA is pleased to be a part of the PCC Digital Inclusion pilot program focusing on seniors in rural areas in five South Carlina counties,” said Kay Hightower, SCDOA Senior Consultant, Outreach and Partnership Building.
“It is our hope that this pilot program will be a model for one approach to closing the digital divide in South Carolina,” said Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections (PCC). “While PCC’s focus has traditionally been on serving rural health care providers with telehealth, broadband and technology resources, we have learned that patients need help in connecting to their health care providers. Residents of rural areas not only need internet access, they need access that is affordable and they need a device and knowledge to connect to resources for a better quality of life.”
Seniors from Clarendon and Williamsburg counties are slated to complete the digital literacy training next as part of the initial pilot program. PCC plans to expand the training for senior and underserved populations throughout the state.
Established in 2010, PCC is a non-profit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in S.C. PCC received the National Cooperative of Health Network Association’s 2021 Outstanding Health Network of the Year award.
PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, serving as an advocate for rural providers and partnering with organizations to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians.