For older adults living in isolation, technology can make or break their quality of life. That’s why Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), now an affiliate of AARP, embraced a new approach to technology access and support for these communities.
In 2020, a partnership with the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), and leaders at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), allowed 10,000 tablet computers to be distributed, for free, to older adults living in (NYCHA) apartments. In addition to access to these devices, free connectivity training, and additional hands-on support were provided. In less than two months’ time, OATS successfully connected 10,000 seniors to the internet.
Fly Like An Eagle
In the latest report from OATS, “Fly Like an Eagle: Measuring Transformational Social Outcomes Among Seniors Using Technology”, OATS presents new evidence of the impact that these efforts had on some of New York City’s most at-risk residents, including a study on the effects of digital skills training and technology on social engagement, loneliness, mental health, and well-being among older adults.
How effective was this program? Just look at the results:
34% of older adults who received a tablet, indicated that they did not have a way to connect to the internet at home prior to receiving a tablet.
Internet connectivity can and often is determined by more than general access to the internet and devices; connectivity can also be affected by disabilities, lack of local infrastructure, illness, or other factors.
According to the report ,“The older adults who participated in this study were experiencing a period of intense disruption due to the collective impact of the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic challenged them to rebuild frayed social networks, sustain relationships with friends and family, self-manage their mental health, and combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
Providing technology support increases the likelihood of deepened connections and can diminish loneliness.
Older adults who engaged with a technology course from Senior Planet were more likely to use their tablets to form new connections or expand their social circles. Seniors who were engaged through NYCHA were provided a complimentary “Android Essentials” course to support the use of their tablets.
Receiving a tablet opened the door for new possibilities.
One participant, Vernell W., says, “It meant I had more people to talk to! One of my old friends even surprised me by video calling through Facebook Messenger. I saw her name pop up and thought: “What in the world?” I didn’t know how to answer the call but my son told me to just hit the button and not be afraid, so I pushed it, and next thing I knew she was right there! We were crying and screaming and happy. It had been maybe 8 or 10 years since we’d seen each other.”
We invite you to review the full study here, and learn how technology interventions can play a significant role in driving behavioral change for low-income older adults, as well as increase social engagement and well-being
The government’s new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is an opportunity for low-income households to get help paying for internet and devices. Learn more about The Affordable Connectivity Program.
NaBeela Washington, an emerging Black writer, holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, and others. Learn more at nabeelawashington.com.
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