Madison’s Letesha Nelson: Connecting Seniors through Technology

Robyn Gruner, Director of External Affairs, AT&T Wisconsin
March 27, 2024
Community Impact

Madison’s Letesha Nelson: Connecting Seniors through Technology

When Letesha Nelson arrived at the Goodman Community Center in Madison for her first day as its new President & Executive Director, the first thing she noticed was a parking lot full of older adults sitting in their cars with their windows rolled down.  

It was January 25, 2021, and many people in Madison, especially older Americans, were still not getting together in person due to concerns over COVID-19.  

The first question she posed to her new staff: “Why are they all hanging out in our parking lot in the frigid cold?!”  

The reason: many older adults were craving connection as families were not gathering as they used to – and most were limited in their ability to connect virtually with loved ones due to technology and internet access barriers. They were gathering in their cars at Goodman with windows rolled down to find that connection, conversation, and community.  

The COVID-19 pandemic had exposed an issue many older Americans then – and now – face: the digital divide. While technology has connected our world, older adults are the demographic least likely to be online due to a variety of factors – from cost to access to low confidence, according to the Pew Research Center.  

Bridging that divide for their older adults was among the first challenges Nelson set out to address at Goodman – a community-improvement center that has been a mainstay on Madison’s eastside for nearly 70 years.  

That first year, Nelson and her staff established Goodman’s Technology Assistance Program. The goal: help older adults learn basic computer skills, gain confidence using mobile devices, connect with loved ones, and access online resources and services.  

“We’ve seen how important connection is for our older adults,” said Nelson. “They come to Goodman for the sense of community through shared meals and activities. But during COVID, we saw a growing need for our seniors who were having trouble staying connected to people because of digital divide barriers. Through our Technology Assistance Program, we help them learn how to use and access emerging technologies so they can continue that sense of connection when they are not in our building.”  

Late last year, AT&T stepped up to provide a $25,000 contribution to Goodman to enhance their Technology Assistance Program and help bridge that digital divide for older Americans in Madison. Some of the program’s new offerings include individual assistance and small group sessions that address technology subjects of interest to seniors. Goodman was also able to add two new computers in their Senior Lounge – computers that are always in use by older adults every day.  

 This January, the first of Goodman’s pilot workshops was led by AT&T experts on how to identify and avoid scams. Over 30 older adults attended and reported back that they loved the chance to connect with tech experts in the community, Nelson said. Many stayed afterwards to learn even more about how to use technology like Goodman’s new computers to connect with their loved ones and take advantage of all the benefits our digital world offers.  

“This program really makes a difference for our older adults in helping them feel like they are not alone,” said Nelson. “When we talk about growing old, to a senior, that is daunting. But bridging this digital divide makes them feel like they are aging in a community that loves and supports them. We understand them, we support them, and they have a voice. Now with access to technology, and the knowledge on how to use it, they are connected to our community.”  

For Nelson, providing that connection to community is what Goodman is all about – and AT&T’s support is helping enhance those connections for seniors.  

“Most of the time, contributions like this go to support youth programs. But we know that our older adults have needs as well,” said Nelson. “We are so thankful to receive this AT&T gift to support our technology programs for seniors. It makes a big difference for them, and we can see it every day.”  

About Goodman Community Center:  

For nearly 70 years, Goodman Community Center has been a mainstay on Madison’s eastside, working to help everyone in the community have the resources they need to be successful. Goodman serves more than 40,000 people annually, through programs for youth and teens, food pantry and meal services, community meeting spaces, a fitness center, programming for older adults, and more.  

A big part of Goodman’s programming for seniors is providing community and connecting them to the technology that powers our society. Goodman’s Technology Assistance Program, with a $25,000 contribution from AT&T, helps older adults learn basic computer skills, gain confidence using mobile devices, and connect with loved ones and online resources.  

A servant leader with 20 years of nonprofit experience, Letesha Nelson has served as the CEO and Executive Director of Goodman since January 2021.  

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