Help@Hand: Older Adult Technology Project

Help@Hand Collaborative Overview

Marin County Behavioral Health Services (Marin BHRS) committed to a significant step towards enhancing mental wellness among its older adult population. As an active participant in the California Mental Health Service Authority (CalMHSA) Help@Hand Innovation Project from 2018 to 2023, a Collaborative effort spanning 14 city and county partnerships, Marin County strategically channeled resources to support older adults through technology-driven solutions. This innovative approach sought to address mental wellness needs by equipping older adults with digital literacy skills, while fostering a feeling of connectedness and combating social isolation.

The goal of Help@Hand is to learn where and how digital behavioral health technologies fit within the system of behavioral health by exploring how people can access digital technology to improve well-being.  With a research team from the University of California at Irvine (UCI), project staff members research how various technology-based apps assist individuals to support their wellness. Help@Hand’s purpose was to increase access to mental health care for Californians by integrating technologies and lived experiences to open doors to mental health support.

Help@Hand Pilot Summary and Lessons Learned

Marin County has focused Help@Hand funds on supporting the mental and emotional wellness its older adult population.

Marin completed the Help@Hand Innovation pilot in 2021 which provided digital literacy training and wellness apps for isolated older adults 60 years and older. Pilot findings demonstrated high value in providing digital behavioral health support to isolated older adults.  Benefits of the overall program included increased feelings of connectedness. This was fostered through interacting with other participants, and by learning skills such as virtual communication with family and friends. There was a significant decrease in loneliness and social isolation among participants as well. Overall participants were satisfied with the program, and hoped more programs like this would be offered in the future.

More information about the pilot and results can be found here. For additional information, read the University of California, Irvine’s white paper on the pilot here.

Older Adults smiling and looking at a computer screen.
Older Adult woman looking at a cellphone and smiling
Older adult using a computerto chat and waving

Marin 2023 Program

Program Overview

Building on the learnings of the pilot, in Fall 2022, Marin County decided to shift to focus away from implementing any specific mental health and wellness applications, to supporting digital literacy efforts throughout the county. This was a two-prong approach of direct service and sub grants.  Marin’s Peer provided digital literacy workshops and individual technology sessions to older adults in the community. Additionally, Marin County offered time-limited innovation project grants to local organizations incorporating a digital component to increase access to wellness supports. Grants could use innovative approaches and each one had their own unique theory of change.


Marin’s Peer facilitated digital literacy workshops and individual technology sessions for older adults in the community.  The sessions were recovery-oriented, culturally appropriate services that promote engagement, socialization, self-sufficiency, and self-advocacy through trauma informed support. The Peer designed and planned 13 digital literacy workshops. She worked directly on site with two community partners, Marin City Community Development Corporation and Enterprise Resource Center. By being a fixture at these sites, the Peer supported older adults in a multitude of ways. Not only was the Peer a reliable presence, but they also provided individual digital literacy support and workshops on a wide variety of topics including accessing electronic health records, using Zoom, navigating county resources, exploring behavioral wellness apps, and enrolling in online education.


Marin County offered time-limited innovation project grants to local organizations to incorporate a digital literacy component in their programs, to increase older adult access to mental wellness. A Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued in May 2023 and seven grantees were selected. The selected organizations were chosen because they collaborate closely with their respective communities, employing a multifaceted approach to build digital literacy among older adults. Workshops, individual sessions, informative videos, and digital literacy websites collectively serve to empower older adults with essential technological skills. Learning opportunities delivered through both in-person and virtual sessions, ensure accessibility and inclusivity for all.

The overarching goal of this initiative was to bolster mental wellness by raising awareness about digital resources, developing tools to counter isolation, and foster robust community partnerships. The seven grantees bring innovative approaches and each one has their own unique theory of change, providing a greater reach of services to a diverse older adult population. By empowering community partners, Marin’s digital literacy learnings meet older adults where they are and contribute to the foundation of a growing system of support, creating lasting change.

Marin’s Help@Hand project made significant strides in promoting mental health wellness among English and Spanish-speaking adults aged 65 and over. These individuals were offered increased access to mental health services through improved digital literacy. The result is that many older adults have experienced increased feelings of connection with family and their community and discovered new opportunities to continue growing as individuals. These successes will continue to spread through the effort of our subgrantees.


Updated Webpage:  December 21, 2023

Digital Literacy Program Findings

According to a University of California Irvine (UCI) Help@Hand Evaluation Report, 79% of participants felt isolated or excluded due to their inability to use digital devices as others can. Through Marin’s Help@Hand project, digital literacy participants have acquired several key skills such as using a cell phone, connecting to the internet, understanding basic computer usage, interfacing with applications, and managing documents or photos.

Help@Hand Program Details

Participants experienced a significant increase in their comfort with technology after the digital literacy sessions.

Grantees reported a 160% increase in the percent of people who said they were somewhat or very comfortable in their use of technology.

Percent of Participants Somewhat or Very Comfortable in use of Technology:

Before the Session

After the Session



Participants of the grantees programs agree saying:

  • “The work is definitely impacting participants mental wellness enabling them to connect to both family members and groups via Zoom, such as book clubs and exercise class, and other online resources and apps, such as podcasts.”
  • “One student who has recently become very involved in the computer lab told a staff member this month that “The computer lab has given [him] a new purpose in life.”

The project empowered older adults leading to improved their mental wellness. They are more capable of accessing telehealth, addressing health concerns, receiving aid for depression, loneliness, anxiety, or boredom, reading the news, articles, blogs, or books, and even discovering employment opportunities.

What participants most wanted to do with their digital literacy