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St. Louis Library hopes free 'GrandPad' tablets for eligible grandparents will help bridge digital divide

"This sounds great. There are so many older people out there who can use it," said Yvonne Martin of Spanish Lake.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Since the pandemic, Yvonne Martin, who's in her 60s, hasn't been able to keep up with the ever-changing numbers and information when it comes to COVID-19.

"Yes, it can be challenging. A lot of times our older people get lost in the shuffle," said the Spanish Lake grandmother.

But, now St. Louis County Library is launching a new initiative to help seniors like Yvonne stay better connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's just really easy to use," said Kristen Sorth, the Director of St. Louis County Library.

Right now, older adults who live in St. Louis County can apply online to receive a free GrandPad tablet for one year.

Officials say the GrandPad is designed to meet the needs of seniors in St. Louis County.

The county bought 1,500 of the tablets thanks to $1 million dollars in federal CARES Act Funding.

As of Wednesday, 500 seniors have signed up in hopes of receiving a free tablet.

"This is an equity initiative and so we are focused on lower-income seniors in our community who do not have a lot of technological resources available to them," said Kristen Sorth. 

Sorth said the GrandPad is pre-loaded with software that allows seniors to make phone calls, connect with their families through video calls and play games.

"It's really just a one-touch process. You have access to a customer service rep 24 hours a day, seven days a week," added Sorth.

The high-tech, GrandPad will also give grandparents easy access to the St. Louis County Pandemic Task Force's website and more.

"We have what's called a St. Louis Cares page and so if they click on that, that's the vaccine registration page. Many seniors also do not have e-mail addresses, so the device gives them an e-mail address and then we've got a link straight to the page where they can sign up for the vaccine and then it just has a lot of information related to COVID. The GrandPad doesn't require a hotspot and it's not a Chromebook. Again, it's a tablet that comes with data and it's developed by and for seniors," said Kristen Sorth.

Spanish Lake grandmother Yvonne Martin is ready to sign up for a GrandPad.

"A lot of people don't have money and right now we're all going through something, so I think it's great what they're doing. Plus, it's free for the older people. It would be a great blessing," said Martin.

Again, eligible seniors who are interested in possibly receiving a GrandPad must have a library card and apply online by Feb. 28.

You can go to St. Louis County Library's website, www.slcl.org/grandpads or you can call (314) 994-3300 for more information.