Aging Connected: Bringing Older Adults Online

The challenge

Nearly 22 million seniors over 65 lack wireline broadband access at home. This digital divide has led to serious consequences for America’s older population, restricting their ability to stay healthy, meaningfully engaged, and financially secure. Disconnection from broadband services not only limits access to essential public health information, social services, and digital healthcare services like telehealth and apps that manage chronic conditions, but it can also lead to risk of social isolation, which has been linked to negative health outcomes, reduced quality of life and premature death. The digital divide also exacerbates social divisions and inequalities.

The strategy

Launch Aging Connected, a national initiative to bring together telecommunications companies, nonprofit service providers, and public sector agencies to get more seniors online and expand access to affordable broadband internet. Publish a report that for the first time quantifies the size and degree of the digital isolation crisis among seniors in the United States by highlighting new research by leading academics on the digital technology gap. Utilize new research to garner widespread media attention and serve as the basis to address this public health crisis by building a more comprehensive and resilient system for bringing more older Americans online and supporting them in achieving meaningful outcomes in health, social engagement, and other areas of life.

The solution

In January 2021, OATS and the Humana Foundation released the –Aging Connected: Exposing the Hidden Connectivity Crisis for Older Adults—report which found that nearly 22 million older Americans continue to lack broadband access at home. Crucially, it laid out the steps to achieve the goal of eliminating the age-based differential in-home broadband use.

The Aging Connected initiative encouraged older Americans take advantage of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a government program that provides low-income Americans up to $30/month for broadband connections and up to $100 for a device for eligible households. Aging Connected hosted Remote Resource Fairs in cities across the country, where older adults heard directly from experts about low-cost Internet programs like ACP. It established a dedicated ACP hotline and a website where older Americans could find local, affordable providers. It created videos and resource guides, and offered affordable home internet and ACP workshop classes, in multiple languages, through Senior Planet. The Senior Planet team also connected with local organizations and government to boost in-person ACP sign-up efforts. These and other efforts to promote the ACP and help more older Americans get connected are ongoing.