Seniors/Aging Individuals

Remarks Of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai At Project GOAL's Conference On 'Aging And Technology'

Two-thirds of Americans over 65 use the Internet. Half have a home broadband connection. And two-fifths have a smartphone. These numbers reflect progress. But they also reflect a connectivity gap. Compared to the overall population, older adults’ Internet usage is 23 percentage points lower, home subscriptions are 22 points lower, and smartphone adoption is 35 points lower. Since I became Chairman, we’ve been focused on updating our rules to ensure that high-speed infrastructure is built and maintained everywhere.

What's the FCC Doing to the Lifeline Program?

[Commentary] On November 16, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on an item that will impact the commission's Lifeline program, which provides discounts on telecommunications services for qualifying low-income consumers. On October 26, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a draft of the item in advance of the November vote. Here we break down the rules that the FCC plans on changing immediately at the November meeting, the new proposals the FCC is seeking comment on, and the more general evaluation the FCC is launching into the program's "ultimate purposes." [Kevin Taglang]

If you weren't raised in the Internet age, you may need to worry about workplace age discrimination

In job ads, some employers have begun listing “digital native” as a requirement for the position. The term, many say, is a “code word” for young workers who have grown up with technology and will be able to use new systems with ease. This term plays into stereotypes that “digital immigrants” — usually older workers who came of age before the Internet — will be slow to adapt to technology, reluctant to learn and costly to train.

Older workers are sometimes labeled as “technophobic,” said Sara Czaja, director of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement. But contrary to stereotypes, research does not show a correlation between age and work performance. If tasks are based on speed and accuracy, Czaja conceded that age may play a factor in an employee’s productivity. A 2010 study of adults aged 65-85 found that the majority of participants had a positive attitude toward using technology.

Growth in mobile news use driven by older adults

Mobile devices have rapidly become one of the most common ways for Americans to get news, and the sharpest growth in the past year has been among Americans ages 50 and older, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March. More than eight-in-ten US adults now get news on a mobile device (85%), compared with 72% just a year ago and slightly more than half in 2013 (54%). And the recent surge has come from older people: Roughly two-thirds of Americans ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device (67%), a 24-percentage-point increase over the past year and about three times the share of four years ago, when less than a quarter of those 65 and older got news on mobile (22%).

The strong growth carries through to those in the next-highest age bracket. Among 50- to 64-year-olds, 79% now get news on mobile, nearly double the share in 2013. The growth rate was much less steep – or nonexistent – for those younger than 50.

Innovators in Digital Inclusion: Free Geek

In 2000, a collective led by Oso Martin recognized the need in Portland, Oregon, for safe disposal and recycling of electronics. Simultaneously, they saw an opportunity to get technology into the hands of those who did not have it. Free Geek began as a simple collection and refurbishment program (and, yes, it was started in a garage). A Free Geek gathering during Portland’s Earth Day celebration brought some formality to the enterprise shortly before it was founded. The new organization soon opened a storefront in an industrial area of Portland, where residents could drop off used tech, and volunteers set to work fixing it up and giving it away. The storefront that opened in a warehouse in the city’s Inner Southeast Industrial District 17 years ago now stretches half of a city block. This location, separated from most of the city’s residents, means that Free Geek must be a destination. Since the beginning, Free Geek’s service model has been structured around community service: volunteer a total of 24 hours and you receive a free computer. This approach fuels the engine, keeps resources available, and keeps people coming in the door. The program expanded so that students may complete 24 hours of any kind of community service in exchange for a computer.

Public policy can improve older adults’ access to technology

Public policies are critical in narrowing the digital divide for older adults and ensuring more accessible broadband access. As the current Federal Communications Commission attempts to change the Lifeline program, policy makers should be reminded that older adults constitute a large number of the program’s beneficiaries, requiring access to essential communications with 911 and other emergency service providers, healthcare practitioners, family and friends and other caregivers. Policies and programs addressing privacy and security also are important for this cohort. Broadband access must be viewed as one of many fundamental civil rights. Guaranteeing that all older adults have unfettered internet access will maintain the vibrancy of these alternatives and others, while ensuring that they aren’t further disadvantaged in the technology revolution.