The City of Boston and AT&T have reimagined their annual Holiday Calls event, in order to continue the tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, instead of hosting the longstanding in-person event, during which hundreds of older adults from around Boston gather at City Hall to make free, long-distance calls to loved ones, AT&T is making a $30,000 donation to Tech Goes Home, specifically focused on bringing connectivity to Boston’s older adult community.
Tech Goes Home will work with AT&T, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City of Boston Age Strong Commission to provide devices and technology training programs to older adults. The Age Strong Commission has identified access to technology as a pressing need in Boston’s older adult community.
“Our older residents need our support more than ever to stay connected to their loved ones and not feel isolated,” said Mayor Walsh. “We have been working hard to make sure everyone in the City of Boston has equitable access to technology, and appreciate AT&T helping us in that effort.”
Each December for more than 20 years, AT&T and the City of Boston have hosted the annual Holiday Calls event. Holiday Calls traditionally brings hundreds of older adults from around Boston to City Hall, where AT&T provides unlimited free oversees calls, so that Boston’s elderly community can connect with loved ones around the world. The event features a visit from the Mayor, food and holiday games. In recent years, AT&T has also hosted technology training and scam prevention seminars during the event, where attendees learn tips and receive one on one device help. Last year, for example, one attendee was able to recover inadvertently deleted, cherished photos of a recently-deceased loved-one with help from an AT&T retail store employee.
“Every day we hear from older Bostonians in need of assistance,” said Age Strong Commissioner Emily Shea. “One big issue impacting our older residents during this time is social isolation, and having access to virtual communication tools can help our seniors who are feeling socially isolated. There are so many ways to catch up with loved ones without having to leave your home and we are happy to work with AT&T and Tech Goes Home to bring connectivity to our older residents.”
Holiday Calls is an important resource for Boston’s immigrant and underserved senior citizens, with calls each year being made to dozens of countries around the world, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Albania, Cuba and China. With COVID-19 restrictions preventing large gatherings, this year’s event was not possible. However, Mayor Walsh and the Age Strong Commission did not want to cancel outright. They worked closely with AT&T and Tech Goes Home to continue to connect some of Boston’s seniors.
Patricia Jacobs, President – AT&T Northern Region, said: “The annual Holiday Calls event is a special tradition that we did not want to let slip by this year. Even though we aren’t able to gather in person to provide Boston seniors with overseas calls, we hope the support for Tech Goes Home will bring new opportunities for seniors to stay connected with loved ones not just this holiday season, but into the new year and beyond. We are grateful to Mayor Walsh for his commitment to this effort and to the City’s ‘Age Strong’ community, and to our friends at Tech Goes Home. From all of us at AT&T, I wish everyone a joyful and safe holiday season.”
Tech Goes Home will provide 15 hours of live, online digital skills training, a new computer and, if needed, home internet access to each learner who enrolls in its program. Older adults who participate in Tech Goes Home are empowered to leverage the internet to connect with loved ones and support networks, engage with their communities, access telehealth, and more.
Daniel Noyes, Co-CEO of Tech Goes Home said: "Tech Goes Home is excited to be working with Age Strong Boston and AT&T to bring digital literacy training and technology access to senior citizens. With this support, more seniors will be able to access telehealth opportunities and government resources, and to connect with family and friends."
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About Tech Goes Home
In the face of deep digital inequity, Tech Goes Home empowers communities to access and use digital tools to overcome systemic barriers and advance lives. Simply put, we bring computers, internet, and training to those without so students can do homework, adults can find jobs and manage finances, seniors can connect with loved ones, and all can access telehealth.