Grants Awarded to Help Bridge Digital Divide for Older Tennesseans
The West End Home Foundation (WEHF) is pleased to announce that more than $3.76 million in grants has been awarded to agencies throughout the state to help bridge the digital divide for Tennesseans age 60 and older.
The digital literacy initiative, administered by the West End Home Foundation, is the last phase of the $40 million settlement handed down from Davidson County Chancery Court, Division III, Case No. 11-1548-III. Funds from this case, were designated by the Court to be used to sustain and improve the quality of life for elderly Tennesseans.
"Digital equity and inclusion are now considered to be social determinants of health with far-reaching implications," said Dianne Oliver, executive director, WEHF. "This grant program was designed to provide funding to locally based programs offered by trusted community agencies that understand the specific needs of their residents."
Agencies and nonprofits from across the state that were seeking grants had to address ways their organizations would reduce social isolation and increase access to essential services for older Tennesseans through digital literacy and inclusion programming.
Thirty nonprofit and governmental agencies received grants ranging from $10,000 to $400,000, including:
Through the grants awarded, these agencies will use the funds in innovative ways to assist older adults in utilizing technology in meaningful ways to break down the barriers necessary to fully participate in their communities. The specific approaches varied and were targeted to the needs of each organization's target population.
Research shows that, when older adults are connected to technology, they become less isolated and more engaged in their communities. Older adults without internet access suffered more extreme levels of social isolation during the COVID epidemic. Many were unable to access essential services and products, and could not take advantage of telehealth, telecounseling and other telesupport services.
"The West End Home Foundation was honored by the Court to be appointed the overseer of these funds and offer the opportunity to statewide agencies to apply for a grant," Oliver said. "The technology needs of older adults are unique and require the use of age-appropriate devices and culturally sensitive training and technical support. We look forward to seeing new and innovative approaches to increasing digital literacy and access for older Tennesseans."
The digital literacy grant program was created in response to the connectivity crisis experienced by our country's older adults. An estimated 21.8 million older adults are offline at home, with only 58% of Americans age 65 and older with broadband internet service. The negative ramifications of this lack of connectivity became clear during the pandemic as older adults became cut off from the families, friends and communities.
In 2014, the Tennessee Attorney General recovered $40.1 million from the dissolution of two nonprofit nursing homes in Murfreesboro. The funds were under the auspices of the Chancery Court of Davidson County, with Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle presiding. In late 2016, Lyle ruled that the funds be used to sustain and improve the quality of life for the elderly of Tennessee. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was awarded $5 million to administer a statewide grant to address immediate needs of senior-serving agencies. The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD) was designated the administrator of $35 million for a statewide grant to address oral health, affordable housing, legal services and transportation. The West End Home Foundation was the recipient of the remaining $3.9 million funds for the purpose of designing and administering a statewide grant aimed at bridging the digital divide that was apparent for older adults during the pandemic. The grant, "Reducing Social Isolation and Increasing Access to Essential Services Through Digital Literacy and Inclusion for Older Tennesseans," was launched Jan. 10, 2022.
The West End Home Foundation is a private, charitable foundation located in Nashville. The Foundation's mission is to enrich the lives of older adults through grantmaking, advocacy and community collaboration. The Foundation serves Middle Tennessee including Cheatham, Davidson, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, providing approximately $2 million annually in grants to nonprofit agencies serving older adults.