One of my favorite websites is Aging in Place Technology Watch. Laurie Orlov not only does a great job assembling important new data, but she is also a very tough-minded observer with a keen eye for what’s real, what’s pie-in-the-sky, and what’s outright BS. She has a new item about seniors on the Internet, and she finds an angle that is very disquieting.
She cites a new Pew survey indicating that Internet adoption is now at almost 85% of adults. But it’s only 61% those aged 65 and up. (In Canada, the number is very close – about 65% adoption.)
We can expect these non-adoption figures to drop steadily, as more Baby Boomers, who are emphatically online, enter the 65-plus cohort and exert their influence on its numbers. But for the moment, the numbers are worrisome because, as Orlov correctly points out, the Internet has moved from “nice to have” to “need to have.”
Access to the Internet in 2015 is an essential – like food, work and transportation. Find a job, search for a health problem like yours, learn a skill, locate a ride, buy a house, vacation, or used car. Book a trip, a restaurant, or find a repair shop. This is not your Internet of 2000. Today’s Internet has disintermediated nearly all other ways find answers to any of those questions…
Yet for many seniors, access to the Internet is unaffordable.
…and nobody is dealing with it. If you are reading this, you know. Access to the Internet is essential. Stores, banks and government agencies are closing. So what’s happening to get the rest of those seniors online? Are you seeing broadband plan discounts for people aged 65+, let alone the 17 million real seniors aged 75+? If life expectancy at 65 averages 88.8 for women and includes those with significant chronic disease, how do they find resources needed to survive without a) access to the Internet or b) committed family who will act as their online proxy? What is the government policy proposal that addresses this audience? And what are the carriers, Google, Facebook, Apple, or any other large tech Peter Pan innovators doing about it?