As part of the $8 million dollars granted to Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities this past fall from Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro’s office, tablet dispersal and digital skill education is underway for older residents of Summit County. Direction Home’s ConnectMeDHAD program has been providing older adults with the resources they need to bridge digital gaps since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic- from wifi, to one-on-one support, to peer groups, all the way to the tablet itself. Now, the increased funding will expand the program to more individuals in Summit County.

“While the lockdown orders are over and we are largely able to get back out into the community with peers and loved ones, it’s important to remember that many older adults in our area still don’t have the means to access online resources. The divide between older adults and accessing tech is exacerbated by their financial situation and digital skills” said Matt Reed, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement at Direction Home.

Much of the ConnectMeDHAD program’s focus centers on this digital divide, and the feelings of loneliness that can come from it. “I think this is an excellent way to strengthen the community and shrink the loneliness and isolation that we are so often seeing,” said Direction Home’s Digital Navigator, Jessica Reno. “I’m excited the program is expanding to assist more individuals with current devices, while still connecting those who need one. The more older adults we are able to teach digital skills to, the more the community itself will be able to help a friend, neighbor, or peer.”

The ConnectMeDHAD program is designed so that device recipients and community members with their own devices can receive one-on-one support in-person and telephonically. Members are supported each step of the way while developing their cyber legs: Reno reiterates “We are their partner in learning and willing to repeat information and try different methods to help them reach their individual goals.”

Participants can be guided through skills like setting up an email address, accessing a local library’s website, downloading games, and even online banking or health management. “The only thing a member needs to bring is a willingness to learn. Frustration and hesitation are anticipated, but overcome frequently with knowledge and a willingness to try!”

To apply for a device, mifi, or tech support, Summit County residents over 60 years old must first go through a free screening and assessment through Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities. These eligible older adults should contact Direction Home’s free Aging & Disability Resource Center at 877-770-5558 or