As many as 2.2 million low-income seniors could qualify to get better connected to their community through a new program launched by Telus across the country Tuesday.
Spurred by the growing isolation of seniors during the pandemic, Telus is launching Mobility for Good, which will provide seniors receiving the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement a free smartphone and a subsidized mobility rate plan.
Nimtaz Kanji, director of Telus’s Connecting for Good program, said the pandemic highlighted the growing digital divide in the country and the challenges lower-income individuals are facing. “We hear about seniors’ loneliness and isolation challenges — they were facing them before the pandemic but the pandemic certainly exacerbated them.”
She said the company realized seniors were most at risk and yet many of them could not access many of the online services the country has relied on during the pandemic or the federal COVID-19 alert application because they didn’t possess the technology to do so.
Kanji said the program will allow seniors to better keep in touch with friends and family, access more entertainment and services such as health care and shopping while addressing feelings of isolation and improving mental well-being.
The program, available across Canada, includes a free refurbished smartphone, unlimited nationwide talk and text programs, and three gigabytes of data for $25 per month.
Kanji said there are no contracts, no set-up fees, no cancellation fees and the $25 rate is good for as long as the senior wants to use the service.
There is also a “peace-of-mind” program that kicks in should the senior use more than the three gigabytes of data each month — that means the user will not be not be dinged with extra charges.
“They may see the speed slow down a little,” she said.
Telus chief executive Darren Entwistle said elderly Canadians have been disproportionately impacted throughout the health emergency and many have had to isolate from loved ones and support networks in order to stay safe.
“Through Mobility for Good for Seniors, we are providing some of our most vulnerable Canadians with access to the vital tools and resources they need to stay safely and meaningfully connected, and in time for the holiday season,” he said.
There are currently 2.2 million seniors receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement in Canada.
Kanji said there is no cost to taxpayers or the government for the program and would only say Telus has committed millions of dollars to deliver it.
Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto, said the project will be a boon to both the physical and mental well-being of seniors.
He said more needs are being met online now, and this will allow seniors to take advantage of that.
Many seniors are nervous about leaving their homes and their land lines for fear of not being able to reach anyone if they need help.
“That can limit how much they move around their community,” he said.
“This year in particular has demonstrated how critical it is that more older Canadians have access to virtual healthcare options that can help them to stay healthy and safe,” Sinha said. “Beyond being able to better access health services, information and apps, a smartphone can be a critical tool in allowing older Canadians to more safely navigate their communities and help prevent the mental and physical health challenges associated with isolation and loneliness, particularly as more older Canadians are staying home and increasingly avoiding gatherings to protect their health.”
More information and instructions on how to apply are at this website: telus.com/mobilityforgoodseniors.