For years I have been arguing with folks who say that older people don’t use the internet and can’t engage through that medium. That didn’t make sense to me. For instance, people who are 70 today were 50 when personal computers began to emerge as a household staple, and they were often more likely to have the resources to explore new technologies coming into the consumer marketplace. People who are 60 today were 40 then and at the height of their careers where the gradual integration of technology was a job requirement. Retirees today connect with old and new friends on Facebook, tweet about their favorite subjects, pin their favorites, check email and text to communicate with family, friends and groups. In fact entire industries of online caregiving have developed. Sadly entire online industries of fraud have also developed requiring a great deal of poise for anyone online to stay safe. With that said, there are people who never went online, but I’m pretty sure that their caregivers, both personal and professional, did. But the question remains, who is not online these days?
I am not the only person wondering about that. A Pew Research Center Study shows that 15 percent of the American population is not online, but the number is shrinking quickly. From that study:
“For example, 86% of adults 65 and older did not go online in 2000; today that figure has been cut in half. And among those without a high school diploma, the share not using the internet dropped from 81% to 33% in the same time period.”
With that said, some people will never go online. Some people never drove a car, but someone gave them a lift. Today we recognize that by 2030 25 percent of the population will be 60+, and almost all of them will be online. Recognizing this trend, The 2015 White House Conference on Aging produced some interesting tech related announcements worth exploring. Among the 2015 WHCoA ideas, is development of a web site named aging.gov:
“to provide older Americans, their families, friends, and other caregivers, a one-stop resource for government-wide information on helping older adults live independent and fulfilling lives. The Web site links to a broad spectrum of Federal information, including how to find local services and resources in your community for everything from healthy aging to elder justice to long-term care, as well as how to find key information on vital programs such as Social Security and Medicare.”
An innovative perspective is provided by The Center for Technology and Aging’s 2014 report (updated) titled The New Era of Connected Aging: A Framework for Understanding Technologies that Support Older Adults Aging in Place. The report provides an overview of how technology can improve the lives of seniors and help them remain in independent living arrangements. The report examines some of the products emerging to support monitoring and management of physiological status and mental health, chronic condition management, technologies to support safe functional status at home, technologies to promote connectedness and products to support caregivers.
The debate is no longer whether technology will be used by and for seniors; the question is how. The challenge will be to use technology to enhance the lives of seniors and their caregivers and promote the well-being and independence of seniors as they age. What an exciting era in which to age and work with seniors!