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Free Smartphones & Service Will Help Affordable Senior Housing Residents in Ohio, Texas Stay Connected

Press Releases | December 16, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio ­– The coronavirus pandemic has underscored gaps in access to health care, food, personal protective equipment and connectivity. A new collaboration aims to change that. Consumer Cellular is providing 1,000 free smartphones and 12 months of free monthly service to residents living in National Church Residences communities in Ohio and Texas. These properties are part of AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect Connected Communities™ program, which works with affordable senior housing providers to equip their communities with devices, tools and training that help residents maintain the social connections they need to remain independent and age in place longer.

Shelter-in-place conditions during the pandemic have revealed just how few seniors in affordable housing communities have access to connectivity and technology. What’s more, residents who may have access to smartphones through pay-as-you-go plans often find themselves budgeting how they use their minutes and data each month — causing many to sacrifice contact with family and friends because they fear not having enough minutes or data to access critical services.

“Without sufficient access, residents of affordable senior housing have very limited options to socially connect and engage with friends and family, or to arrange for basic services like ordering groceries or telehealth,” said Emily Allen, senior vice president of AARP Foundation programs and head of its Social Connection team. “We’re grateful to our longtime partners at Consumer Cellular for recognizing the problem and offering such a generous solution.”

The collaboration expands on AARP Foundation’s work to end social isolation in older adults — a longstanding issue that’s become even more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic. Social isolation not only increases the risk of health complications from COVID-19, but also limits social interactions in this era of physical distancing. With this new effort, AARP Foundation, Consumer Cellular and National Church Residences hope to reduce social isolation and loneliness among residents, expand access to telehealth services and illustrate how investment in technology and connectivity increases housing staff’s ability to communicate and engage with residents.

Michelle Norris, executive vice president at National Church Residences, explained how the pandemic and shelter-in-place conditions have trained a spotlight on how few seniors have access to connectivity and technology in their properties. “These resources are out of reach for many of our lower income senior residents,” said Norris. “At this time when care providers are reporting exponential increases in telehealth visits; a large majority of our residents, most of whom have chronic medical conditions, do not have the resources needed to conduct these visits remotely. This leaves them cut off from the care and family support systems they need to remain healthy and socially engaged during this critical time.”

“We are honored to join the AARP Foundation as they research additional ways to keep seniors in touch with friends and loved ones, especially during a pandemic,” said Consumer Cellular CEO John Marick. “Consumer Cellular is committed to using technology to help seniors stay connected. Over the past 24 years, we have accomplished that goal by providing affordable, easy to use cellular service. We are thrilled to donate that same technology and service to participants in the Connect2Affect Connected Communities program in an effort to keep seniors in affordable senior housing connected to the ones they care most about.”


About National Church Residences
National Church Residences serves more than 42,000 seniors through its array of housing and health care services. The not-for-profit organization is driven by a vision of advancing better living for all seniors, enabling them to remain home for life. With 340 communities in 25 states, it is the nation’s largest not-for-profit provider of affordable senior housing and the largest manager of service coordinators. The organization also offers residential senior communities, home and community-based services, as well as permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless and disabled. For more information, visit us at and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

About Consumer Cellular
Consumer Cellular is a top-rated wireless carrier that provides no-contract cellphones and service plans primarily to those 50+. The company has been an approved AARP Provider for over 10 years and offers AARP members special discounts on service. Founded 24 years ago on the belief that everyone should have affordable access to the safety and convenience of cellular service, Consumer Cellular is privately held with 1900 employees. The Portland, Ore.-based company utilizes the nation’s largest voice and data networks, which covers more than 300 million people – or 99 percent of the U.S. population. Consumer Cellular’s wireless phones and plans are sold nationwide at leading retailers such as Target, as well as direct to consumers at or (888) 345-5509. The company has been ranked on the Inc. 5000 list for 11 years in a row. Consumer Cellular received the highest score in the non-contract value segment of the J.D. Power 2016 (V2) – 2020 (V1) Wireless Non-Contract Customer Care Performance Studies of customers’ satisfaction with wireless customer care experience. Visit For cellphone tutorials, features, applications and company news, connect with Consumer Cellular on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation works to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable older adults build economic opportunity and social connectedness. As AARP’s charitable affiliate, we serve AARP members and nonmembers alike. Bolstered by vigorous legal advocacy, we spark bold, innovative solutions that foster resilience, strengthen communities and restore hope. To learn more about AARP Foundation visit

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