Potter County Education Council and Tri-Co Connections Partner Up to Launch Seniors 2 Seniors Program

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One of the many challenges of getting high-speed fiber broadband to rural Pennsylvania has been finding the funding to bring this expensive network to an area that only serves 5.8 homes per mile. Recently, Tri-Co Connections, an LLC of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, was awarded over $51 million in grants to do just that. Tri-County’s members will soon have access to up to one gigabit (1000 Mbps) of service in their own homes.

Providing this service to over 3000 miles of fiber network throughout seven counties in northern Pennsylvania is not only very expensive, but also very time-consuming. Bill Gerski, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Tri-Co, says the entire project may take upwards of six years to complete.

As this project unfolds, an additional exercise will be working with older customers so that they may benefit from the use of this available technology as much (or more) as younger ones. Gerski and Dr. Michele Moore, the Executive Director of the Potter County Education Council, have come up with a potential solution to this challenge.

The Potter County Education Council, Tri-Co Connections, the Potter County Human Services Area Agency on Aging, the Seneca Highlands CTC and our local school districts are teaming up to develop a program called Seniors 2 Seniors. This program will teach basic computer skills, digital literacy, and cybersecurity to senior citizens so that they have the knowledge to utilize the many benefits of high-speed Internet. 

As a part of this program, Tri-Co Connections, the Potter County Education Council and the Area Agency on Aging would like to have local high school students volunteer to provide on-site support to each of the adults who participate in the course. Area high school students are a logical resource to support senior citizens as they learn about the Internet since this generation of students has grown up with technology as a part of their daily lives. They are a true “tech-savvy” population and can provide valuable support to older adults who are learning to navigate and use new technological skills and information.

“The Potter County Education Council is excited to be partnering with Tri-Co Connections, the Area Agency on Aging, the Seneca Highlands CTC and our local school districts for this very important and timely project which will provide a valuable lifelong learning opportunity to many of our older county residents while also allowing area high school students an opportunity to give back to their local communities,” stated Dr. Moore. S

he went on to point out, “This course will provide our older county residents the opportunity to learn, and in some cases, further their technical skills while also providing our senior high school students the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and connect with a more experienced generation of Potter County residents. It’s an opportunity for both age groups to learn about the other, to debunk generational stereotypes and connect on a personal level.” 

Potter County Commissioner Doug Morley expressed his support for this program. “The Senior 2 Senior Initiative is another example of how the Potter County Education Council leads the way in collaborating with private industries and other public agencies to assist area residents in their educational pursuits. It’s exciting to see the collaboration efforts made by Tri-Co Connections, Potter County Education Council, Potter County Human Services Agency on Aging, the Seneca Highlands CTC and our local school districts in support of the educational opportunities for our senior citizens.”

Research has shown there are some specific benefits of high-speed Internet to our older adults which include:
• Staying connected to family and friends. The ability to Skype with children and grandchildren is priceless. Senior citizens can view a graduation or birthday party that they would otherwise be unable to attend. For home-bound older adults, high-speed Internet can become a lifeline to the outside world.
• Health care from home is now possible. Home-based health monitoring over a broadband connection allows senior citizens to connect directly with their doctors and avoid costly trips to medical offices and hospitals. This valuable service allows many elderly people to live independently at home.
• Access to online banking. Banking from the comfort of home rather than having to travel to the bank for basic financial needs such as checking account balances, transferring money between accounts and even paying bills on-line has made banking easier and more convenient than ever before. 
• Numerous government online tools are currently available through high-speed connections. In some cases, mature adults can find answers about changes to Medicare or help with Social Security within minutes. Many older people who have never had access to these programs can now get up-to-date information from the comfort of their own homes.
• High-speed Internet access can open a whole new world of shopping convenience online. The advent of services from online stores such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target allows senior citizens in rural areas to buy online and have products, that are not available locally, delivered within days. 
• Many older adults are now working from home for companies like Amazon, Google, and American Express. These companies are looking for experienced workers, but also require employees to have access to a computer, high-speed Internet, and a skill set to navigate the company’s platform.
• Improving mental sharpness and hand-eye coordination. Research has shown that playing strategy-based video games can help to improve the cognitive functions of senior citizens (which normally decline as people age). 

With a wide variety of benefits for senior citizens to learn and use high-speed internet, it makes sense to provide older adults access to technology classes that will allow them to take advantage of this innovation. Isaac Musser, Director of the Potter County Area Agency on Aging echoes the importance of these benefits, “Social isolation is a serious health issue for senior citizens. Ensuring that seniors within Potter County stay connected to family and friends is critical to their overall health and well-being. 

It is the team’s hope that through the Seniors 2 Seniors Program we can encourage our senior citizens to utilize high-speed internet and technology to become and continue to stay engaged with their family, friends, fellow community members, and health care providers. Join us in protecting and serving one of Potter County’s most vulnerable, valued and treasured populations. We ask anyone who has a Senior (citizen) in their family to make them aware of this program and encourage them to attend.” 

The Senior 2 Senior technology course will be offered at each of the four senior centers in Potter County on an eight-week rotating schedule, meeting on Wednesdays from 1-2 PM (following the school districts’ calendars), throughout the 2019-2020 school year. 

The first Senior 2 Senior course will be at the Shinglehouse Senior Center beginning on Wednesday, October 2nd and will run through Wednesday, November 20th. The course will also run at the Coudersport Senior Center (December 4th – February 5th), the Ulysses Senior Center (February 12th – April 1st) and then at the Galeton Senior Center (April 8th – May 27th)

You can register yourself or a parent or grandparent by calling the Potter County Education Council at (814) 274-4877, registering on the Potter County Education Council’s website at www.pottercountyedcouncil.org or stop by the Potter County Education Council’s office at 5 Water Street in Coudersport to register in person. 

For more information about the Seniors 2 Seniors Program, contact Dr. Michele Moore at the Potter County Education Council (274-4877 or mmoore@pcedcouncil.org) or Bill Gerski at Tri-Co Connections (702-493-6142 or billg@ctenterprises.org

The Senior 2 Senior technology course and high-speed internet from Tri-Co Connections will allow our senior citizens to better connect to the world!

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