Blog: For Downsized IT Veterans -- The Internet and Computers Everywhere -- Except for Older Seniors

Blog: For Downsized IT Veterans -- The Internet and Computers Everywhere -- Except for Older Seniors

This MarketWatch article (placed by Banker's Life Insurance, no less) caught my eye: Seniors: Overcoming Loneliness. The article encouraged seniors to visit their local senior center: "If it's too cold or difficult for you to get out, stay connected to others by phone, mail or computer. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project surveys taken from 2006-2008 show that older generations are online now more than ever before with email being their most popular online activity."

Are seniors online today? Well, that's sort of true. According to the latest Pew study, ages 64-72 and ages 73+ are the only two age groups in which internet use lags the percentage of the population. To contrast: GenY (18-32) represents 26 percent of the population, but 30 percent of the total Internet use. The two senior groups, however, each comprise 9 percent of the population, but represent 7 and 4 percent of internet use. Forty-five percent of those aged 70-75 are now online, up from 26 percent three years ago. And 27 percent of age 76+ compared to 17 percent three years ago.

Reverse the perspective -- most are not. Flipping the Pew Research numbers around, 55 percent of seniors age 70-75 and 73 percent of those 76+ are not online. And some of the increase in usage, of course, is derived from individuals taking their connectivity into the next group as they age.

Being online is more than an antidote to loneliness. Let's get real. We know that the Internet can provide seniors with health information, access to groups coping with like chronic diseases, daily news, how-to instruction, ability to find products and services, address lookups, phone numbers, quick language translations, online games, elder blogs, movies, and humor, story telling, even directions to the senior centers. And that's just for starters.

Senior housing companies are AWOL on technology. I am tired of walking through independent and assisted living facilities where residents are idle, lying down, or snoozing, where awaiting lunch is the activity of the morning. Where they sit passively while someone selects a movie to watch, a game to play, or activities to be done as a group. This being the 21st century, let's ask: Are the majority of assisted and independent living facilities installing high speed connections, implementing wireless networks, acquiring and promoting touch-screen PCs, and offering internet access subscriptions as part of their service (which they could mark up and resell for a profit)? You know they are not.

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