We are excited to announce the launch of Aging Connected, our new national campaign dedicated bringing one million American seniors online with high-speed internet by 2022.
It has become clear that the digital divide among older adults is a public health crisis which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. With this in mind, OATS partnered with the Humana Foundation to commission new research by leading academics on the digital technology gap to quantify the digital divide among seniors and demonstrate the depth of the digital crisis.
Based on the findings of the report – Aging Connected: Exposing the Hidden Connectivity Crisis for Older Adults – nearly 22 million American seniors 65 and older still lack broadband access at home. The digital landscape is more uneven in rural areas, where American seniors are 1.6 times more likely to lack home internet service. The lack of digital connection in the age of coronavirus worsens an already difficult crisis for older Americans; more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 65.
In addition, the digital divide only exacerbates the social divisions and inequalities that American seniors—many of whom are challenged by poverty, poor health, racism, and isolation—already face. Existing programs to help seniors get online are showing promise, but much of the country still lacks significant low-cost internet offerings or age-friendly initiatives.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities, it is more critical than ever before to ensure seniors can access and use internet-based technology to access a range of virtual health resources – from telehealth services, to managing online medical records, and creating greater social connections by reaching out to family and friends via technology.
Through Aging Connected, OATS is bringing telecommunications companies, nonprofit service providers, and public sector agencies together to help bring American seniors online and expand affordable broadband access. Currently, older adults and caretakers can visit AgingConnected.org or call the Aging Connected hotline at (877) 745-1930 to find low-cost internet options – some as low as $10 a month – that may be in their area. OATS will also be announcing additional private and public partnerships in the future to help bridge the digital divide for older adults.
We look forward to sharing more news with you and working together on this campaign.
Executive Director, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)