During Digital Inclusion Week (Oct. 3-7), which aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing digital equity, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP released a report, “Fly Like an Eagle: Measuring Transformational Social Outcomes Among Seniors Using Technology.” The report details how access to technology devices and innovative training programs can yield transformational social outcomes for older adults and provides a blueprint for cities and communities looking to implement their own digital inclusion programs.
Nearly 22 million older Americans remain on the wrong side of the digital divide, lagging behind the general population by double digits on most measures of technology utilization. The quantitative findings present strong evidence that technology interventions can play a significant role in driving behavioral change for older adults: combating social isolation, loneliness and depression – all while improving quality of life.
Researchers found that older adults who received technology training:
Felt more connected to family and friends: About 60% of participants in the study “strongly agreed” that receiving their tablet helped them to feel more connected with family members. While nearly 88% of participants who took the supplemental technology course that came with their tablet said they felt more connected to their family and friends.
Felt less depressed and lonely: Nearly twice as many seniors in the control group reported feeling depressed as compared to those who took the supplemental technology course.
These findings are particularly relevant given the Federal Government’s $2.75 billion dollar Digital Equity Act. This funding presents a historic opportunity to close the digital divide among older adults, ensuring they have the skills, technology, and access to participate in our digital economy.
OATS is working to get older Americans connected to the internet by raising awareness of the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and offering a Senior Planet lecture and workshop about the program and how to sign up. The ACP can provide low-income seniors with up to $30 per month towards internet service at home.
Resources like the ACP and OATS flagship program Senior Planet—which offers free classes, lectures, and workshops that train and empower older adults to use modern technology—will ensure older Americans have the support they need to reap the benefits of today’s technology and thrive online.