Testimonials – California Department of Aging (CDA)

Participants of the California Department of Aging’s iPad program tell us how happy they are with learning tech skills with Cyber-Seniors!

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It all started in 2009, when Kascha and Macaulee Cassaday had to do some volunteering to graduate high school. They, like all kids that age, just wanted to get their hours in, but when they noticed how much they used tech to stay close with their grandparents, a light bulb went on. The Toronto-based siblings realized that by teaching older generations how to use modern tech, they could bridge the digital divide between young and old. They started by touring local retirement communities to tutor seniors on how to use popular apps like Skype and Facebook. Their experience was captured in the critically acclaimed 2014 documentary Cyber-Seniors (directed by their sister, Saffron Cassaday). Fourteen years later, they’ve built a non-profit with reach across North America and a mission to create digital equality and connect generations through technology. “During the pandemic, we all learned how social isolation can negatively impact us, and older adults are at a higher risk of social isolation as they age,” says Kascha. “Our organization is powered by youth volunteers who are in high school or university. All the older adults we work with are lifelong learners who are dedicated to keeping their minds sharp. As much as they are learning from us, they are giving back by guiding us to be better teachers and leaders.” If you’ve ever needed a reminder to call your grandparents, this is it.


Grant to help ‘bridge digital divide’ through technology help for Greenfield seniors


Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — Thanks to a $99,773 grant, area seniors will gain increased access to technology and the resources to learn how to use it.

The award, which comes from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, will benefit the Council on Aging’s Tech Savvy Seniors project. Thanks to the grant, the Council on Aging will be able to purchase 50 iPad tablets that include keyboard and trackpad attachments. Some iPads will remain at the Greenfield Senior Center for seniors to engage with during their visit at no expense.

“Tech Savvy Seniors is a longtime goal coming to fruition,” said Council on Aging Director Hope Macary, noting that she’s thrilled to help “bridge the digital divide” by providing devices and ongoing educational support. “I’ve been keenly interested in technology since attending nursing school at [Greenfield Community College], where I gained tech skills and then served as a computer tutor as an adult learner.”

The Council on Aging will assign at least 40 of the purchased iPads for seniors to participate in educational outreach after they complete a digital equity intake form.

The free informational component is provided through GCC’s Cyber Seniors program, which has helped roughly 100 seniors via hands-on training since its debut in 2021. Associate Dean of Community Engagement Judy Raper will lead workshops for iPad recipients to learn how to use the device and protect their privacy/personal information. Seniors will be able to keep their new devices after the course.

“Over the past several years, I have become increasingly aware of the difference that digital literacy skills can make in the quality of life for older adults,” Raper said. “I am thrilled that we will be able to enhance our current offerings to increase support for this population around navigating technology. Part of the role of technology is developing the capacity to connect. For many older adults, this is essential to their well-being, and this grant will help us support them in developing the necessary skills to do so.”

A portion of the grant funding will allow GCC to subcontract a part-time cyber senior regional coordinator who will take inquiries from interested seniors, track appointments and session topics, host information sessions about the program and arrange the hiring of cyber senior mentors.

The mentors work with older adults one-on-one during in-person appointments to help them navigate technology. Sessions are held at GCC, the John Zon Community Center/Greenfield Senior Center and Franklin County’s YMCA.

“I want to expand the locations where people are getting one-on-one assistance, so we’ll be working with the YMCA, as well as the Senior Center, and we’ll be reaching out to some of the public housing units,” Raper added. “The idea is to help more older adults one-on-one with their devices.”

GCC will also be offering free computer classes for older adults on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., beginning Sept. 8 and continuing through Sept. 29. People can register on the GCC website. There will be more workshops offered later this fall and in the spring.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

Breezeline Provides Digital Training to Empower Monongalia County Seniors

The U.S. internet provider partners with Cyber-Seniors for onsite technology training

August 09, 2023 10:06 ET| Source: Breezeline

Morgantown, W.Va., Aug. 09, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Breezeline, the nation’s eighth-largest cable operator, hosted a digital literacy seminar to empower older adults in West Virginia with the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the digital world.

The digital literacy learning seminar was held August 8 at Senior Monongalians, a nonprofit senior center serving those aged 60+ in Monongalia County. Breezeline held the event in partnership with Cyber-Seniors, a nonprofit that provides tech-training and digital mentors to seniors. The interactive seminar covered topics such as internet basics, cybersecurity, telemedicine, and online banking.

“Knowing how to safely navigate the online world leads to more opportunities,” said Lisa Martin, executive director of Senior Monongalians, Inc. “The skills that Breezeline and Cyber Seniors teach will help older adults in Monongalia County stay connected to friends, family, and all the things they love.”

Pew study indicates that 75% of adults over the age of 65 regularly use the internet, and according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, older adults who regularly use social technology are less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses and depressive symptoms, while also more likely to enjoy higher overall well-being, than those who do not.

“Cyber-Seniors is proud to partner with Breezeline to teach skills that keep older populations socially connected and engaged,” said Brenda Rusnak, co-founder and president of the nonprofit.

To further enhance the online experience, Breezeline also provided attendees with blue light glasses that prevent eye strain while looking at screens.

This event is one of several steps Breezeline is taking to foster digital literacy and the responsible use of technology in its communities. This summer, Breezeline will make a donation to Monongalia County schools every time a West Virginia Black Bear baseball player steals a base.

“We recognize the great importance of expanding connectivity and are pleased to partner with Cyber-Seniors and Senior Monongolians to promote its right and safe use among older adults,” said Sean Brushett, Breezeline’s vice president of technical operations.

Breezeline Helps Customers Avoid Online Risks

Monday, June 26, 2023 11:06 AM | GlobeNewswire via QuoteMedia

Breezeline Helps Customers Avoid Online Risks

Through education and training, the service provider works to promote online safety and awareness

QUINCY, Mass., June 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Breezeline , the nation’s eighth-largest cable operator, is helping to raise awareness about internet safety and the ways customers can protect themselves when they are online.

Online threats are increasing and cybercriminals are constantly evolving the techniques they use to trick users. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ( CISA ):

  • One in three homes with computers is infected with malware
  • 65% of users who went online last year received at least one online scam offer
  • 47% of adults have had their personal information exposed by cybercriminals
  • 31% of millennials have shared their passwords–more than any age group

Because older adults are often the target of cybercriminals, Breezeline has launched digital literacy training through its partnership with Cyber-Seniors to instruct these customers on internet basics and how to protect themselves online. Additionally, Breezeline has partnered with CyberSecurity NonProfit to create a series of blogs, videos and other content to inform the public on ways to protect against cybercrime and to promote online safety.

“Cybercriminals count on users to have their guards down, and many users are in a hurry and bypass controls that are there for a reason,” said Aaron Brace, vice president of engineering for Breezeline. “Making attackers’ lives harder makes our lives a little harder, but it’s worth the extra time and diligence.”

In addition to cyberbullying , younger online users are at risk through popular apps that collect data on their online habits. Furthermore, younger users may also inadvertently download malware or reveal their own personal information or that of their parents. They may also be tricked into sending images to a person posing as another, who then threatens to share the image publicly unless extortion money is paid.

Online users can take these basic steps to help combat cyber threats:

  • Exercise caution when surfing online or clicking on an email. Take the time to read carefully. Ask yourself whether you were expecting the email and why you need to provide the information requested. If the email contains an urgent appeal for your attention or contains spelling errors, this is likely a phishing attempt. Be careful using a public WiFi network because it may not be secure.
  • Use long, unique credentials for usernames and passwords. Use passphrases rather than passwords, vary them between sites, and change them often. Attackers can hack the database of one platform to obtain usernames and passwords so that they can try to access other sites frequented by the same user.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when possible because it requires more than one verification step.
  • Use encryption: Do not keep sensitive documents and data unsecured on computers. For example, if you keep a folder of your tax return on your computer, it should be zipped and encrypted. Lastly, ensure that you have antivirus software on your computer.
  • Do not share personal data on social media sites or other online forums. These can be mined by cyber criminals to gain access to other accounts.

Breezeline is also working to protect customers while they are online. While Breezeline does not filter customers’ online content, its security team is on the lookout for fraudulent websites and phishing emails designed to trick a recipient into providing personal data. To minimize these attacks, Breezeline uses inline scanning to warn email customers of potentially harmful email attachments.

The Breezeline “WiFi Your Way” service, meanwhile, has best-in-class security powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) with always-on digital and data security for every device on the home or business network. It filters out suspicious activity and even automatically quarantines devices that are behaving strangely. The system also includes built-in ad-blocking for overall smoother surfing.

Breezeline also uses multi-step verification to protect customer data by confirming that those who contact the company are, in fact, customers. Breezeline also complies with customer data protections under federal “Customer Proprietary Network Information” (CPNI) regulations.

One generation will help another close the remaining digital divide (Editorial)

Published: Apr 28, 2023

By The Republican Editorials

Even after a long state effort to bring high-speed internet to rural areas, access to this critical tool of modern life has remained out of reach for many.

Many who live in cities, as well as towns.

When people first heard the term “digital divide” in Massachusetts, it referred to people in small towns unable to sign up for internet access from cable companies. Private companies bypassed these prospective customers because of the high cost of reaching them.

Government stepped into the gap during the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker. After delays and false starts, the Legislature and governor eventually invested about $57 million to get high-speed service to 53 towns – in some cases through incentives paid to commercial companies, in others by grants to towns that wanted to build publicly owned networks. That job is nearly done.

That digital divide needed hardware. Utilities pounded 40,000 new poles into the ground. Crews laid 2,000 miles of fiber optic cable. In the end, 26,000 residences and businesses obtained long-denied internet access. Not having that access hurt. It hurt businesses, students and people in need of telehealth services. It depressed property values.

Today, the state, continuing a program shaped in the last months of the Baker administration, wants to close a different digital divide. This one needs soft skills and cash – and will get it, thanks to an infusion of federal money that dwarfs what was spent reaching people in rural areas.

This past week, economic development officials with the Healey administration came to Springfield to detail steps that will help people take advantage of resources available online, removing barriers to information and providing greater equity for all. We applaud this new chapter and encourage people to take advantage of new programs, training and, yes, devices and subsidies.

In Springfield, 54% of residents do not have a reliable internet connection, one study found.

That’s not just an inconvenience. “It is a civil right. It is a human right,” Frank Robinson, vice president for public health and community relations with Baystate Health Systems told a gathering at the Tech Foundry. Baystate will lead a program called Cyber Seniors, in which high school and college students coach senior citizens who haven’t the tech skills, or means, to get online.

As reporter Jim Kinney explained in a story this week, the state will pump $14 million into a variety of projects. The Digital Equity Partnerships Program will pull from a $50 million fund provided through federal pandemic relief.

In coming months, we will continue to highlight steps in this work. More than a dozen Springfield-area groups have lined up with Baystate to take part. They are doing important work.

Most people take for granted the ability to hop online and search. The new effort is needed and overdue.

Western Mass. group gets $5.1 million to address ‘digital divide’ in skills, devices and fiber coverage

Published: Apr 27, 2023

By Jim Kinney | jkinney@repub.com

SPRINGFIELD – Starting next week, high school and college students will start helping senior citizens connect to the internet, taking advantage, perhaps for the first time, of the web’s wealth of life tools.

The step will start with four internet guides, but could expand to 60 as part of a broad state project to remove barriers to internet access.

“If we train 60 young people, we can reach 400 seniors,” said Frank Robinson, vice president of public health at Baystate Health. “This is an intergenerational exchange.”

Called Cyber Seniors, the pilot program begins May 6 at the Palmer Public Library. The training is one program of a new effort, led by Baystate Health Systems.

The Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity, as it is known, will receive $5.1 million from the state’s Digital Equity Partnerships Program. Elders will be able, once trained, to avail themselves telehealth, online benefit applications, email and other internet programs that most people consider indispensible.

On Thursday, Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao visited Springfield to announce $14 million in grants aimed to close the state’s digital divide. She spoke at the Tech Foundry job skills training program.

The term digital divide once referred only to the lack of high-speed internet service in rural areas. But it now covers any skills gap that keeps people from accessing the technology, or any device gap or lack of computers or computer access.

The Digital Equity Partnerships Program was launched in September 2022 with a $50 million fund to narrow the digital divide in the state. According to a news release, the program works with partners on six program areas to expand connectivity options.

The money comes from the state’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act, COVID recovery legislation of 2021.

“Broadband access is part of the puzzle. But only part of the puzzle. Having fiber on your street is just part of the battle,” said Michael Baldino, director and general counsel for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.

The rest of that puzzle lies in missing skills and tech devices.

The state has made significant progress bringing broadband into underserved areas, Baldino said. Back in 2016 there were 44 towns – mostly in western and central Massachusetts — without access to high-speed internet. Now, projects are completed in 37 of the 44 and are underway in the remaining municipalities.

In Springfield, despite years of effort, 54% of the city’s residents are without reliable internet connection, said Roger W. Crandall, chairman, president and CEO of MassMutual and co-chair of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership’s Innovation Committee.

Baystate Health is involved, Robinson said, because internet access is connected with a person’s health and well-being. No internet means no telemedicine, no online appointment scheduling and less access to education.

“It is a civil right,” Robinson said. “It is a human right.”

The projects fall into broad categories. Participating organizations will establish and administer projects in one or more of the following program areas:

  • Digital Literacy Initiative – $2,299,235 for digital literacy training programs.
  • Connectivity Initiative for Economic Hardship – $689,313 for broadband connectivity to vulnerable populations through the provision of Wi-Fi cellular hot spots.
  • Public Space Internet Modernization Initiative – $813,221 for improvements to inadequate broadband infrastructure and digital use in public spaces and increase daily use and services.
  • Outreach and Enrollment – $1,347,693 for breaking down barriers to broadband adoption. This includes increasing the number of western Massachusetts residents participating in the Digital Equity Partnership Initiative programs and the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program. This outreach will involve in-person workshops, call center phone banking, door-to-door outreach, online or printed communications and public service announcements.

Breezeline Provides Digital Training to Empower Older Adults in South Florida

Breezeline partners with Cyber Seniors for onsite technology training

April 25, 2023 11:29 ET | Source: Breezeline

MIAMI, April 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Breezeline, the nation’s eighth-largest cable operator, hosted a digital literacy seminar to empower older adults in South Florida with the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the digital world.

The digital literacy learning event was held April 20 at Sunrise Lakes III, a 55+ active senior community in Sunrise, Florida. Breezeline held the event in partnership with Cyber-Seniors, a non-profit that provides tech-training and digital mentors to seniors. The interactive seminar covered topics such as tech and internet basics, helpful aging, cybersecurity, telemedicine, and online banking.

“Digital skills are essential in today’s world. That is why Cyber-Seniors is proud to provide technology training that keeps older populations socially connected and engaged,” said Brenda Rusnak, co-founder and President of Cyber-Seniors. 

To further enhance the online experience, Breezeline also provided attendees with blue light glasses that prevent eye strain while looking at screens. 

This event is one of several steps Breezeline is taking to foster digital literacy and the responsible use of technology in its communities. Earlier this year, Breezeline sponsored the South Florida non-profit CodeArt’s annual festival and coding competition, aimed to inspire girls in computer science. 

“We recognize the great benefits online connectivity provides and are mindful of the responsibility to promote its right and safe use, while expanding access to connectivity in this digital age,” said Andrew Walton, a spokesperson for Breezeline.

Breezeline is committed each year to donating at least one percent of its pre-tax profits to community-based support. In its last fiscal year, Breezeline contributed more than $5 million in support of community initiatives.


Cogeco US, operating as Breezeline, a subsidiary of Cogeco Communications Inc. (TSX: CCA), is the eighth-largest cable operator in the United States. The company provides its residential and business customers with Internet, TV and Voice services in 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Cogeco Communications Inc. also operates in Québec and Ontario, in Canada, under the Cogeco Connexion name. Cogeco Inc.’s subsidiary, Cogeco Media, owns and operates 21 radio stations as well as a news agency serving audiences primarily in the province of Québec.


‘Tech Pals’ Overcome Vision Problems, Age Differences, and Smartphone Anxiety

Photo: Anne Perzeszty (l) and Leslie Guevara (r). Photo credit: Don Horvath.

By Lisa Kava

Anne Perzeszty, 86, considers herself to be tech savvy for someone her age. But she was overwhelmed when she purchased a new Samsung cell phone last fall. ”I immediately hated it,” she told West Side Rag in a phone interview. “I wanted to throw it away. There were too many bells and whistles; it was just loaded with features.”

Perzeszty has a condition called macular degeneration, which causes loss of central vision. While intimidated by the phone’s features, her vision impairment added an extra challenge. “With macular degeneration I have learned how to navigate the outside world, but it is very difficult for me to see close up,” she said.

Perzeszty is involved with Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit organization located at 250 West 64th Street, which provides services to blind and visually impaired individuals. She signed up for a new intergenerational program run by the organization called Tech Pals, where young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 help mentees above the age of 55 with their smartphones. The “pals” meet at the Lighthouse Guild’s Technology Center from 10 AM to 2 PM every Saturday for one-on-one training. All mentors and mentees are visually impaired or blind.

Perzeszty was paired with Leslie Guevara, 22, a college student with the genetic condition iris nerve retinal coloboma. While Guevara can see black and white, much of her vision is blurry, and glare hurts her eyes. She uses both a magnifier and glasses. Upon learning about Tech Pals, the idea of helping others with vision impairment resonated with her. “I have always been good with technology,” she told the Rag in a phone call.

Guevara says her own vision challenges make her sensitive to those of her mentees. She enjoys sharing tips she uses in her everyday life. “The first thing I did was to change the settings in Anne’s phone,” Guevara said. “Dark mode makes the contrast with white words easier to see. Guevara also introduced Perzeszty to the easy voice recorder app. “It is like any other recording app. I use it for everything. Now Anne uses it for her Trader Joe’s and Costco lists. It is so much easier than struggling to read a shopping list when we can just listen.”

“I had a challenge and Leslie had the tools to help,” Perzeszty said. “I felt comfortable with her immediately.” Each week they work together on a different aspect of the phone. “She really helped me with my confidence. I could not see the buttons on my phone,” Perzeszty said. “She set up the accessibility function, she made the type bigger, she set up google assistant, and showed me how to ask questions.”

Judith Katzen (far left) and mentors. Jason Eckert, (blue shirt, right) executive director of the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (RDPFS). Photo credit: Ekaterina Svetova.

Judith Katzen, director of rehabilitation at Lighthouse Guild, thought of the idea for Tech Pals during the summer of 2022. In a phone conversation with the executive director of the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, which provides funding to Lighthouse Guild, Katzen learned about Cyber-Seniors, based in Canada, where typically sighted young people mentor typically sighted seniors in technology. “We studied their model and thought we can take this concept and make it happen with the blind and visually impaired community,” Katzen explained.

Katzen hired a program manager with a background in teaching technology to blind and deaf individuals. She then interviewed graduates of Lighthouse Guild’s youth programs for mentor positions. Guevara and the others selected participated in online training with Cyber-Seniors in September, 2022. The program went live in October. Tech Pals mentors get paid for their services. “For many it is their first job,” Katzen said.

Beyond technology help, Perzeszty and Guevara enjoy the personal relationship they have developed. Guevara tries to establish a connection with her mentees from the beginning. “I want them to feel at ease and I always try to find a common interest. Anne told me she was nervous about her granddaughter traveling by subway, so I told her I take the subway all the time.”

The duo often chat about family when Perzeszty’s eyes get tired and she needs a break. “Leslie will talk about her younger sister, and I will throw in some stories about my daughters. We have things in common beyond vision impairment,” Perzeszty said. “I think the intergenerational concept is brilliant. The younger generation has the challenge of finding a common language and teaching us. The older generation must respect the younger generation and what they have to offer.”

“Working with Anne has been so gratifying,” said Guevara. “One time, as she was walking into the technology center, she was on a video call with her daughter. I showed her how to do that. It was neat to watch her in action.”

Helping seniors get some cyber-savvy

Program provides devices, internet connection, technical education

Participants in the University of Rhode Island’s Engaging Generations Cyber-Seniors program have shown statistically significant improvements in digital competence, technology use, quality of life, and in strengthening social bonds. 

The program has helped participants feel more connected to their communities, increase contact with family and friends, and generally improve their feelings of well-being and overall health.

The findings are the result of surveys taken by participants before and after the program, which aimed to increase digital competency in older adults, especially while the COVID-19 pandemic limited their contact with others. 

The program provides participants with smart devices like iPads, wireless internet hotspots, if needed, and the training and technical support they need to access online resources, work and meet remotely, and virtually communicate with family and friends. 

The Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging funded the URI study as part of its digiAGE initiative to implement and evaluate the pilot program, providing devices and hotspots to diverse older adults from communities hit hardest by COVID-19. URI partnered with five community organizations to recruit and support English- and Spanish-speaking adults 50 years old and older, with the average age being 72. 

URI students provided technology training through individualized phone calls, Zoom meetings, or in-person appointments. Weekly Zoom meetings shared technology and community resource information while also creating a community among participants.

“Our team at URI was thrilled to offer this intergenerational program to provide students meaningful service learning and internship experience and to improve digital inclusion among the older population,” said Skye Leedahl, associate professor of human development & family science and director and principal investigator of the URI Engaging Generations program. 

“This program is unique in that it meets an important community need for older adults while also building career readiness skills for future professionals. Both generations learn from each other, and they seem to have fun, too!”

“The Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging is extremely proud of this partnership with the University of Rhode Island’s Engaging Generations Cyber-Seniors program,” said Director Maria Cimini. 

“This program offers learning and socialization opportunities for older Rhode Islanders. By improving technology skills, this program improves quality of life. Dr. Leedahl and her students have done great work through this program to help bridge the digital divide here in Rhode Island.”

Participants were asked to meet their assigned student mentor regularly for two to three months and complete pre- and post-surveys, as well as phone interviews in order to keep their iPads and retain internet connection through the year of the program. Based on their analyses, researchers discovered participants’ use of technology, as well as their digital competence and comfort level using the devices, increased significantly. 

More than 76 percent of participants reported daily usage of an iPad after having previously never used such a device. Their competence levels — especially using video calls, obtaining information from public authorities or public services, seeking health information, and being able to participate in a telehealth appointment — improved significantly. Many reported feeling less isolated and less lonely after learning how to connect via the devices.

“It has helped me because now I can be involved with other people who are using the tablet or the phone and be in the conversation,” one participant reported. “Before, I just had to sit there, and I didn’t know anything was going on. Now, I can participate.”

“It actually has impacted my mental wellbeing because with FaceTime, I have a friend, my best friend who lives far away, and I was able to see her for the first time in two years, that made me feel really good,” another participant said.

Overall, most participants reported that they were content with what they learned and now felt prepared to complete tasks and use technology on their own said Leedahl, who presented the study at the Gerontological Society of America Scientific Meeting in Indianapolis, IN, in November 2022. 

Still, most said they would like to continue with technical support not only to continue learning, but also to continue the connections they’ve made with their student mentors and fellow participants.

“This provides evidence that the URI Cyber-Seniors digiAGE iPad pilot program positively influences quality of life, social isolation, and loneliness for participants in the program,” Leedahl concluded. 

“We are now working to implement the program statewide, and there is great interest in the program across the state. We will continue to examine participant experiences to compare to the pilot study.”