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Creating Access

Coverage for a class offered in a physical COA building differs from a class offered in an online environment. Municipal insurance that may have covered an instructor in a municipal building means that an instructor needs a different kind of insurance. Do they have the right kind of protections?

The experience of shifting online during the past few months has meant a steep learning curve for COAs. But who better to quickly think through a challenge than COAs?  Here are a few examples of issues that need to be considered. Thanks to all of the COAs who have helped develop this list.

  • Determine the Best Platform – There are many options for providing online programming. Zoom, Facetime, Google Groups, ClickMeeting, YouTube, FacebookLive, and others provide lots of options. What makes the best platform? It all depends on what the COA is most comfortable with and which platform is commonly used in the community. Also, can the COA offer any kind of training support via the phone for older adults who need help, perhaps in partnership with the library or other social services organizations?  Schools, including school groups such as the local student Honor Society, are looking for volunteer hours and are often looking for intergenerational opportunities.
  • Think about the Content – A boring speaker in-person/instructor is even worse online. A speaker who is also not comfortable with the technology platform is also not a good candidate to do a presentation. The key is checking it all out in advance.  It is always worth doing an advanced soundcheck on the platform just to see if the presenter will be able to offer a program worth watching in any format.  For advice on how to provide a high-quality exercise program, check out our Zoom recording by Kim O’Brien licensed instructor. Pacing, lighting,background noises such as fans or air conditioners are important external conditions that need to be taken into consideration as you record.
  • Fee Structure – Whether it is online or in-person, artists, instructors or other types of presenters need to be paid for their work if required. Also, fees provide an important source of revenue for COA revolving funds. While many COAs have been offering programs at no cost, at some point, payments will need to be collected to compensate content providers and the COA for providing the programming. Remember that online or in-person, instructors have to pay for their insurance if required. Also, remember to discuss what happens after the program is recorded. Can you post it on your site?? Who owns the content?  All of these issues need to be discussed in advance.
  • Payment Systems – COAs are using four types of payment systems to collect fees. As always, cash is king, but in the era of COVID19 is not advised. If you are collecting cash, please remember to check with your local public health official and the state guidance as to how to handle cash. More COA’s are shifting to online payment systems as older adults have to register online for the covert limited spots in a program due to the virus.  Why not collect payments at that time? The obvious answer is that many older adults are afraid of entering their credit card information and for very good reason. However, this information can also be collected by trusted COA staff members and volunteers.  My Senior Center, Xoom/Paypal, MindBody, and most likely your local treasurer offers centers the ability to collect fees online. Check first with your local Treasures office.  You can also listen to the MCOA Zoom call on Online Payments systems for additional information and advice from COA colleagues.
  • A new platform – called Schedule Plus – offers point of sales, online and a variety of other services, including transportation scheduling and easy exchange of financial information with town treasurers office
  • Given the wide range of credit card payment options available to for COAs, this will be an ongoing conversation.
  • Think about Waivers and Disclaimers – Just as when a COA offers a class in your building, centers need to think about any waivers and disclaimers that need to be signed before a class is offered if registration is required. Here is a good sample of a basic disclaimer for use before an exercise class.

 “As with all exercise programs, when using our exercise videos, you need to use common sense.  To reduce and avoid injury, you will want to check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program.  By performing any fitness exercises, you are performing them at your own risk. will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of our fitness program, DVD, online fitness videos, or information shared on our website.  Thanks for your understanding.” 

Keep it short. Keep it Simple. Keep it Broad. As always, check with your town solicitor. 

People who choose to participate in a fee Zoom class, a cable show, Facebook Live, or any other publicly available program assume their own responsibility for participation in a program because they elect to participate in a program.

Think About the Digital Divide – Options for Technology and Technology Assistance for Older Adults

Do Seniors in Your Community Need Access to Technology Support—or do you? National Senior Planet is a non-profit organization that works to enable older adults and people of all ages to come together and find ways to learn, work, create, and thrive in today’s digital age. Senior Planet offers a national hotline for tech support at 920-666-1959. This is NOT a toll-free call. The line is open from 9-5 EST – Monday – Friday. Senior Plant also offers a wide array of free, online programming.

Candoo Tech is available to help you set up and learn how to use your technology with online visits from their expert Tech Concierges. The organization offers free downloads and video tutorials for how to use FaceTime, set up video conferencing, order groceries, and food delivery. You can also purchase more dedicated individual support with a paid membership. If you live in the Boston area, partners with social service organizations in Greater Boston to deliver a course focused on fundamental digital skills for adults. Taught by TGH certified trainers at our partner organizations, course topics include, but are not limited to, job searching, financial literacy, communicating with friends and family, accessing public benefits, and finding educational programs. Courses are offered online. Upon completion of 15 hours of TGH curriculum, graduates have the option of purchasing a new Chromebook for $50 and can receive assistance in signing up for low-cost internet.

How to Choose a Tablet Device to Meet the Needs of Older Adults?

While there are lots of guides available, Candoo Tech also provides a “tech agnostic” guide for how to select a device. The guide provides a basic overview of tablets and filters the information down to a level where anyone can select the tablet that best meets their needs.


Massachusetts Councils
on Aging

116 Pleasant Street, Suite 306
Easthampton, MA 01027
Telephone: 413-527-6425
Fax: 413-527-7138