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Stories

The Digital Divide

Andi Waisman, Healthy Living Program ManagerAndi Waisman, Healthy Living Program ManagerLifePath’s Healthy Living Program has offered in-person workshops for over a decade to help people with chronic conditions feel more empowered to manage their health conditions. This summer, due to COVID-19, we started providing remote workshops through video conferencing and the good old-fashioned telephone. We learned; we connected; we had fun.

For some, the prospect of spending hours in front of a computer makes them anxious or angry. “I can't see the screen on my work computer half the time because of trifocals, tiny fonts and glare. I get angry at all the confusion. Where did I put my phone? What's my password? Where did I put my charger? I am losing my short term memory for real life from all the screen time. Why am I getting ads about men's underwear? Doesn’t anyone talk on the phone anymore?” said a 60-year-old LifePath staff member.

“Rather than an obstacle, this platform brought us together while staying in the comfort of our homes.”

Despite the anxiety that many of us feel adjusting to online communication, our first Zoom and phone workshops were a pleasant surprise. One of our Chronic Pain Self-Management leaders describes how “folks navigated the technology well, despite some having had little or no experience using Zoom. For some, it eliminated the difficult and sometimes impossible obstacle of getting to and from an in-person meeting and sitting through a 2.5-hour program in hard chairs. A couple of folks sat in their comfy recliners while another lay on her couch. We ‘met’ their pets. Most surprising and gratifying was the connection, support, and warmth that was shared. None of us seemed to want to sign off after the last session! Rather than an obstacle, this platform brought us together while staying in the comfort of our homes.”

For others, it has been an opportunity to rise to a challenge, or a welcomed change. “I found it to be fun, a needed challenge which I haven’t had enough of lately. I was nervous at first. I thought I would have to dress up and my daughter reassured me that people only see you from the waist up. Every week, the workshop leaders sent me a link for the class, so it was easy,” said an 81-year-old Healthy Eating workshop participant.

Stepping into the virtual world can be frustrating and overwhelming. Some of us don’t have access to the internet (19% of people in Franklin County) or to an updated computer, or just feel ill-equipped to tackle the challenge. This “digital divide,” the uneven distribution of communication technologies, is being described by some as a “public health crisis,” leaving some without access to healthcare or connections to loved ones.

We at LifePath are committed to not leaving anyone behind. We are offering telephone workshops for people who don’t have access or motivation to use computers. We are able to provide laptops, tablets, cell phones, technology guidance and support to qualifying individuals who want to get online. We have volunteers helping our participants over the phone master the skills needed, and are patiently helping each other with the inevitable glitches and frustrations. One person reassures, “If you can raise children, have a career, drive a car, and/or run a household, you’re certainly capable of working with computers.”

As we prepare for another season of remote workshops this fall, we want to encourage our community to take a risk, stretch your comfort level, and try a video or phone workshop.

Programs are supported by LifePath, Executive Office of Elder Affairs, and the Healthy Living Center of Excellence. To register, please call Healthy Living Program Manager Andi Waisman at 413-773-5555 x2297 or 978-544-2259 x2297, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fall 2020 Healthy Living Schedule

  • My Life, My Health: Living Well with Long-Term Health Conditions
    • Live Video Conferencing Workshop
      Six Wednesdays, 2:00-4:30 p.m.
      October 14-November 18 
    • OR Toolkit Telephone Workshop
      Six Tuesdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
      October 13-November 17
  • Chronic Pain Self-Management
    Toolkit Telephone Workshop
    Six Thursdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
    October 15-November 19
  • A Matter of Balance–Managing Concerns About Falls
    Live Video Conferencing Workshop
    Eight Sessions, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
    September 29-October 22