Selfhelp Community Services, a CAST sponsor in New York City, will soon be expanding its well-known Virtual Senior Center with funds from the new Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Foundation.

CEA established its new foundation in late June 2012 and charged it with supporting initiatives that link older adults and people with disabilities with technology that enhances their lives. Selfhelp is the foundation’s first grantee.

“SelfHelp Community Services engages seniors, improves their health and ultimately reduces costs by enabling them to remain in their homes,” wrote CEA President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Shapiro in a recent Forbes magazine article about the grant program.

With more than 2,000 members, CEA promotes growth in the $190 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. It is best known for sponsoring the annual International CES, which is the largest annual technology event in the world.  

Expansion and Replication

The Selfhelp Virtual Senior Center uses computer, video and Internet technology to link homebound older adults with local senior centers. The program is designed to create an interactive experience that reduces social isolation, promotes wellness and provides participants with better access to community services.

The Virtual Senior Center currently takes place exclusively at Selfhelp’s Benjamin Rosenthal-Prince Street Senior Center in Queens. The new funds will allow Selfhelp to open 2 additional Virtual Senior Center locations. 

The organization will also create a replication guide to help bring the Virtual Senior Center to scale in multiple cities across the country.

“We are delighted that the CEA Foundation has selected Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center as its first-ever grant recipient,” said CAST Commissioner Leo M. Asen, Selfhelp’s vice president of senior communities. “With CEA’s insights and expertise, we are confident that the expansion of the Virtual Senior Center will allow more homebound seniors to re-connect with friends, classes, far-away family members – in essence to re-connect with life.”

Article in Care Management Journal 

The CEA Foundation grant announcement comes on the heels of another major Selfhelp accomplishment: the recent publication of the Selfhelp technology story in the Care Management Journals.

In an article entitled “Selfhelp Community Services: Innovations Help Older Men and Women Maintain Independence in a Changing World,” Asen and Selfhelp Executive Director Stuart C. Kaplan provide an in-depth description of the Virtual Senior Center. 

They also describe a host of other technology-enabled initiatives that Selfhelp is implementing. These include sensor-based monitoring systems, telehealth kiosks, computer learning centers and technology-enabled memory programs.

The Care Management Journals article suggests that Selfhelp’s CAST membership played a role in helping the organization implement technology solutions. 

CAST affiliation, write Kaplan and Asen, “has enabled us to condense our technological learning curve. It has also opened doors for us to partner with companies seeking senior populations willing to test and use their service products.”