UIndy center hopes to spark volunteer efforts to install digital converter boxes

The upcoming switch to all-digital broadcast television could pose a hardship for older adults on fixed incomes, many of whom still rely on rabbit-ear antennas and analog TV signals as a key source of entertainment and vital information.

An October study by Nielsen Media Research found that nearly 10 percent of Indianapolis households were unprepared for the federally mandated Feb. 17 changeover, and the percentages were even higher in other Indiana communities. Fortunately, however, the Center for Aging & Community at the University of Indianapolis is making it easy for community groups, churches and neighbors to help senior citizens make the digital transition – at little or no cost.

The Digital TV Connection Project, a partnership between CAC and technology consulting service Noobie Inc., offers a free downloadable toolkit designed for faith-based and community organizations to launch short-term volunteer efforts that will inform senior members about the transition and convert their TVs to handle digital broadcast signals. After the switch, households without cable or satellite television will require conversion boxes to view full-power TV stations, including affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS.

Available at http://cac.uindy.edu, the toolkit offers materials in English and Spanish including:

  • Sample newsletter announcements to recruit volunteer installers
  • A sample invitation, agenda and PowerPoint presentation for senior information sessions
  • A ready-to-copy application for seniors wishing to receive government coupons for digital TV converter boxes, a value of $40 to $80 that could cover the full equipment cost

“Many older adults lead vital and active lives, but for those whose options are limited by illness or disability, television is more than mere entertainment,” said Ellen W. Miller, executive director of UIndy’s Center for Aging & Community. “We hope churches and other groups will take this opportunity to help their members avoid being targeted by people selling products and services they may not need, such as new televisions or monthly subscription services.”