When introducing a business support tool, it must be a tool that anyone can use. I think the most important thing is to make it available to everyone.
We are leaving the elderly out of the digital world
Image Credit: Getty Images
Contribution to Jessica Fields
Jessica Fields is a research analyst and program manager at the UCSF Vulnerable Population Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and a collaborator on the OpEd project.
May is National Elderly American Month, and this year's theme is Connect, Create, and Post. One area in particular threatens to prevent older people from making these connections: digital division.
Nationwide, one-third of adults over the age of 65 say they have never used the Internet, and half do not have access to the Internet at home. Nearly half of those who use the Internet say they need the help of someone else to set up or use a new digital device. San Francisco is also home to technology giants such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google, and 40% of seniors do not have basic digital literacy skills.
Acquiring digital technology is an important element of full participation in society. Without providing access and training to technology for older people, they are locked out of society and the already anxious tendency for older people to be isolated and lonely is exacerbated.
As a researcher who works directly with isolated seniors to provide low-cost internet, tablets, and digital training through the Tech Allies program led by the non-profit Little Brothers Friends of the Seniors, I regularly I hear this feeling from the elderly.
Before and after 8 weeks of one-on-one technical training, I will visit Tech Achias participants aged 62-98. We talk about their experiences and perspectives on today's technology. Looking back on why he and other seniors want to learn to use the Internet, one elder told me, "I feel like we're standing outside an accessible building."
Another woman doesn't have access to the internet or know how to use the technology, so "I'm no longer part of this world. In certain aspects of society, I just can't participate. Internet flow. Some things are impossible just because they are not included. "
In contrast to concerns about the use of technology, which is becoming more isolated among the younger population, the communication and connections possible online are tied to home, live far away from family, or social when young. It is especially valuable for older people who have lost their loved ones who have relied on social support. Older people can use online tools to connect with friends and family through messaging platforms, video chat, and social media, even if they are physically unable to visit.
Elderly people can find online support groups for people who share their medical condition. You can also engage with the outside world through news, blogs, streaming platforms and email. As one elder told me, "I can't really move easily without a caretaker, and I only have her for a few hours a day [tablet]. It's a great companion to me. , Connected with other people.
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Especially for the elderly, the risks associated with social isolation are deep. Elderly loneliness is associated with depression, cardiovascular disease, dysfunction, and death. Technology serves as an important tool for mitigating these risks, but only if it provides the skills that older people need to access the digital world.
But we can fill this gap. Our research shows that tech allies can measureably improve older people's use of technology and confidence in key digital skills. Such programs that incorporate technical training into existing community-based organizations need to prioritize funding at the local, state, and federal levels and increase and expand the involvement of technology companies and investors. If only a small portion of the $ 8 billion invested in digital health companies last year could be tailored for seniors, it could significantly increase usability, training, broadband and device access.
Support from tech companies can take many forms. In addition to expanding device donation programs, tech companies need to design devices specifically for the elderly (swipe can be difficult if your hands are unstable). .), Technical support call line for seniors who are not very familiar with the internet (cache and cookies and cloud, oh me!
In addition, broadband providers like Comcast and AT & T need to streamline and expand their eligibility in the process of registering affordable Internet programs. Partnerships between senior-focused service providers and community-based organizations are important in ensuring that these efforts actually meet the needs of older people.
Indeed, many older people also say they are not interested in technology. For some, this reflects a real lack of desire to use digital tools. But for others, it reflects the fundamental fear of technology and lack of skills. Proper training can help calm these concerns and generate interest. Particular attention should be paid to online safety training. Elderly people are more likely to be victims of online fraud and endanger their personal information, but with customized digital literacy training, you can learn to navigate the Internet safely and securely. ..
The importance of digital inclusion will not disappear with generational changes in the coming decades. Technology is constantly evolving, and each new digital innovation presents challenges for young adults to adapt.
As investment in providing accessible devices, broadband and digital training grows, technology has the potential to become a powerful tool that reduces loneliness in older people and empowers them to connect, create and contribute online. As one elder said, "It's time to catch up and join the world."