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Seniors In St. Louis County Can Apply To Get A Tablet — For Free

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St. Louis County Library
St. Louis County Library will distribute 1,500 GrandPads to area seniors as part of its Digital Equity Initiative.

Rosella Thompson is an 86-year-old Florissant resident who used to enjoy her large social life with friends and family. But her world’s gotten a lot smaller since the start of the pandemic.

She explained how she navigates life nowadays: “Keeping close in the house, that's how. Wearing masks when somebody comes into my house, just being very cautious, even if I had to go to the grocery store, I have to be so cautious.”

She isn’t able to keep in touch with many family members virtually. That isolation is something St. Louis County Library hopes to mitigate. Last summer, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page designated $4 million in federal CARES Act funds to the library to establish a Digital Equity Initiative.

The effort initially provided tools for virtual learning, such as Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks. It’s now expanded to provide seniors with a GrandPad tablet, free to use for a year. The tablet is designed with people 75 and older in mind: easier layouts, larger text and pre-programmed apps to prevent virtual scams.

Library leaders hope users will be able to stay in contact with family, learn about COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans and take care of personal business, such as paying bills or purchasing groceries.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, library director Kristen Sorth joined host Sarah Fenske to delve into the details of the Digital Equity Initiative and how seniors can apply for the GrandPad service.

“The whole concept of digital equity has come to the forefront during the pandemic. I think there are lots of people who have been aware that there's an equity gap for technology. And that just became so much clearer when we all depended on online learning and Zoom and all kinds of other things to stay connected,” Sorth said.

“So the kids definitely came first, especially at the beginning of the school year with the 10,000 hotspots and about 6,000 Chromebooks. The tutoring came next. And then it really was, ‘Who else in our community is struggling because they don't have access to technology?’ And seniors were at the forefront of that, because they have lots of reasons to not leave their home because of COVID, as Rose said.”

The application deadline to apply for a GrandPad from SLCL is Feb. 28.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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