The Lasting Impact of Digital Literacy Training for Seniors

At 95 years young, Mrs. Jessie Sinkler took a digital literacy class that changed her life. She learned how to navigate a tablet, connect to the internet, Facetime with relatives, and use telehealth to meet with her doctor. 


“It’s important to try to keep learning,” she said. 


Mrs. Sinkler, of Eastover, is the oldest participant to ever be trained in one of the digital literacy classes organized by Palmetto Care Connections. This nonprofit organization brings technology, broadband, and telehealth solutions to healthcare providers in rural and underserved areas of South Carolina. Through the Digital Inclusion program, Palmetto Care Connections has taught more than 1400 people how to use technology such as a tablet, laptop, or smartphone. 


Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections, said the program started during the COVID-19 pandemic when patients kept calling the PCC office asking for help with a telehealth visit. Patients had never used telehealth to connect with their doctor and some people, especially seniors, did not know how to use a device or connect to the internet. 


“Our world has become very technology-based; everything is on the internet," Schwarting said. We can spend millions on infrastructure - building out broadband fiber - but if an individual doesn’t connect to that service because they don't understand the need for internet service or they can’t afford it, then we really haven’t impacted them.”


The Digital Inclusion Program, Palmetto Connect, helps close the digital divide ­for residents in rural and underserved areas to­ South Carolina by increasing internet access and affordability, digital literacy trainings, and connecting individuals to quality-of­-lif­e resources such as telehealth through digital inclusion.


Since Mrs. Sinkler took the digital literacy class in 2021, she’s developed even more digital skills. Daily she uses her tablet to play games that keep her mind engaged. She said it’s important for seniors to stay updated with the newest technology and keep learning. The more active a person is, the sharper their mind, which helps protect against dementia and other harmful conditions.