Madison Street United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, received a $7,500 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. Money from this grant was used to start an iPad pilot project for older adults.
“Older adults have become isolated because many church communications – newsletters, schedules, and other church information – are now distributed electronically,” said Aleeta Christian, chair of the church’s Electronic Train team.
“Many older adults do not have access to or the skill to use electronic devices. They may also lack funds to purchase devices due to living on fixed incomes.”
The idea of giving older adults new iPads and teaching them how to use them was Christian’s dream. Initially, she bought iPads and taught her two older sisters how to use them. From there, the idea blossomed and became a reality thanks in part to the Golden Cross Foundation grant. Money from the grant was used to purchase 10 iPads, needed accessories such as stylus pens and covers, Wi-Fi connections, and a large TV and conference tables to use during training.
In early 2019, the first of several workshops introduced interested older adults to the iPads and to select recipients. To qualify for an iPad, persons needed to be 62+ years old who did not have an iPad, and who would commit to attending training sessions and donate $100 in matching funds. Training sessions included group, one-on-one with youth assistant facilitators, and home visits.
In August, 2019, two more iPads were purchased and distributed to interested older adults. That fall, the church offered a seven-week workshop series on iPad-related features and functions such as apps, installing the church directory, and using the camera. Each older adult receiving an iPad attended.
“Learning to use an iPad and keyboard is not easy for anyone, especially older adults who have few experiences with newer electronic devices,” said Christian. “Sometimes it was hard and frustrating to all – participants, leaders, and Electronic Train team members – but as a whole it was very gratifying. Older adults can learn new things. It was so fun watching that happen.”
In today’s world, the “electronic train” is chugging full steam ahead, and those who can’t get on are often left behind. Madison Street UMC’s iPad Pilot Project is an innovative way for older adults to get on board and learn and fellowship together.
When Christian recently asked an iPad recipient how things were going with the iPad, the woman smiled and said, “I use it every day.” Other iPad recipients were quoted as saying “Awesome opportunity to come into the 21st Century,” and “Thank you for making this possible.”
“God expects us to be involved in groups, churches, and in society in general,” said Christian. “Thanks in part to the grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, the iPad project has touched the lives of people in our church’s largest demographic group; 29 percent are 65 and older. Now, older adult members can regularly communicate and stay connected electronically with friends and family – both inside and outside the church.”
If you are interested in learning more about starting a similar project in your church and/or would like guidance on writing a grant request, contact Aleeta Christian at ChristianA@apsu.edu.