Helping Seniors Bridge the Digital Divide

[Commentary] Pew Research Center recently issued a report on who is online and who is not. Seniors are most likely to be offline, with 39 percent reporting they do not use the Internet. Yet, there has been significant progress in getting seniors online. In 2000, 86 percent of adults age 65+ were offline. This progress is due in part to baby boomers entering the age 65+ group, but also to the work of many organizations across the country working diligently to help seniors overcome the obstacles they face in broadband adoption. Here are just a few of them:

SeniorNet is a nonprofit organization specializing in computer and Internet education for adults age 50+.

Generations on Line (GoL) was founded in 1999 by communications professional Tobey Dichter, whose mother inspired a passion to change the face of aging and kindle respect for older people.

This comprehensive Computer Learning Center (CLC) for seniors began five years ago when the Springfield DEA’s SCSEP became a partner in the aforementioned SSAI DII program. Since then, the program has expanded to a five-day week with four hours of classes each day.

St. Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS) began its mission to “provide and promote a continuum of innovative services that empower a diverse community of elders to live well, feel well, and age well” in 1908, long before the age of computers, much less the Internet. Its service area in Los Angeles (CA) is very diverse, the home of Chinatown, Koreatown, Filipinotown, and many older Latino residents.

eWIRED is a senior digital literacy project created by Alliance for Aging, Inc. (AAI), the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties (FL). In 2009, AAI’s Board endorsed broadband access for elders as an important strategic initiative to close the “grey gap.”

[Cecilia Garcia, former Executive Director of the Benton Foundation, is a communications advisor with an extensive background in public affairs, television production and advocacy. Bob Harootyan is the research manager at Senior Service America, Inc. (SSAI), where he directs internal and external projects related to low-income older workers and the aging workforce.]

Helping Seniors Bridge the Digital Divide