The Benton Institute for Broadband and Society cited Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP’s Aging Connected research report, published with support from The Humana Foundation, in its recent report Visions of Digital Equity. The research cited quantified the size and degree of the digital isolation crisis among older adults in the United States.
The Benton Institute launched its effort in September 2022 to develop, “ten Principles for Digital Equity Visions, organized around five themes, to help guide both the process and the resulting visions of digital equity,” according to the report. As part of that effort, which included community meetings, interviews, conversations, and a collaborative writing process, OATS and AARP contributed to two of the steering committee sessions.
“We are thrilled that Benton Institute is utilizing the important research undertaken by OATS,” said Ellen Forbes, program specialist for digital equity at OATS. “Inclusion of the research in Benton’s report speaks to our mutual commitment to understanding the reasons for the digital divide and ending digital inequity among older adults.”
The Aging Connected research cited in the report found that internet non-adoption is strongly connected to age, educational attainment, and household income, and that race was also a significant factor. Living in areas of high concentrations of poverty was associated with a 6.7 times higher likelihood of lacking home broadband. Health is also a factor. People reporting poor-to-middle health were over three times as likely to be disconnected, and Medicaid enrollees were 2.7 times as likely to be offline.
The Digital Equity Act, which provides $2.75 billion for grant programs that promote digital equity and inclusion. recognizes eight “covered populations,” including older adults, as disproportionately impacted by digital inequity. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are currently working on digital equity plans. OATS is working with AARP State offices to provide guidance and resources to ensure state implementation of digital inclusion plans are age-friendly and sustainable and help eligible older adults sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a government benefit program that helps eligible low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices.
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society launched the Visions of Digital Equity project to take advantage of the historic opportunity presented by the Digital Equity Act and ensure that individuals and communities have the capacity to fully participate in our society and economy.