Improving Well-being and Social Connections Through Technology for California Seniors Isolated by COVID-19
Eskaton and Front Porch are partners of Lighthouse for Older Adults, a CITRIS and University of California initiative that brings technology-enabled health and well-being to low-income California seniors during the COVID-19 crisis. Lighthouse for Older Adults is a rapidly deployable and scalable digital inclusion pilot program that provides internet accessibility and digital literacy training to improve access to health care services and communication, ultimately leading to improved health, engagement, information, safety, and well-being for 600 older adults across six affordable housing communities.
The connectivity model for Lighthouse at Eskaton and Front Porch is the deployment of property-wide Wi-Fi with the initial broadband connectivity preference for fiber, and secondarily for high-speed coax, depending on availability of services. To date, Eskaton has completed full Wi-Fi installations at three affordable housing communities, and Front Porch has completed one affordable housing Wi-Fi deployment with two additional communities in progress.
Under the Lighthouse “Rapid Pilot Deployment” (RPD), Eskaton and Front Porch distributed Google Hub Max devices to residents and staff during the 2020 winter holiday season. In this demonstration pilot, Eskaton connected devices to residential Wi-Fi at their community, and Front Porch deployed mobile/cellular hotspots for temporary internet connectivity for eight months.
Infrastructure Business Model
As an important demonstration of its power in partnerships, Lighthouse for Older Adults worked closely with CDW Healthcare to coordinate and secure broadband infrastructure construction for Eskaton and Front Porch.
Upon completion, Lighthouse for Older Adults will have completed deployments across six affordable housing communities with infrastructure funded through a variety of models. The construction and installation of broadband infrastructure has been funded through various resources, including grant funding, affordable housing community HUD budgets, developer fees, and organizational commitments and investments.
In 2014, Eskaton made an intentional decision to invest organizational capital from the parent company to build out basic Wi-Fi infrastructures in several of their owned HUD affordable senior housing communities. As part of the Lighthouse project, additional investments were made through the project grant to further strengthen the coverage and performance of the broadband connection in three Eskaton affordable housing communities and to ensure every home had adequate Wi-Fi to participate in the project.
All three Front Porch managed affordable housing communities were new broadband installations that required electrical, cabling, and equipment installation to build out the Wi-Fi coverage for every home, staff office, and common area. Funding for these installations came in part from CITRIS grant funding, and from community reserves or reserves resulting from developer fees.
Capital investment to build out the Wi-Fi infrastructure for the six buildings varied significantly—from $520 per unit to as much as $2,400 per unit. Oftentimes it is not the size of a building that matters, but the building materials, structure, layout, and geography (rural vs urban) that impacts costs. Installation costs were higher in affordable communities that were older, had more buildings on the property, and required significant electrical work, cabling, and network equipment.