It’s a mess of text and colors, a swirl of perplexing pixels. A woman - sixty-six and white-headed, slim fingers constantly adjusting ever-sliding spectacles - peers at her computer screen, baffled. She doesn’t know how she arrived on this irrelevant page. The URL is unfamiliar; the content is without meaning; and the slow load-time leaves her stranded in a digital wasteland, with only that frustrating spinning beach ball for company.
She hates that beach ball - almost as much as hates the computer - and it’s all too easy to walk away, abandoning the page for real-world tangibility.
The Internet is a wondrous thing. For many seniors, however, it often proves a challenge, demanding an understanding of links, clicks, and engines that they simply lack. This frustration has led to a slow acceptance among men and women who view technology with considerable skepticism.
The value of connectivity, however, can’t be denied - and introducing seniors to the online world affords them greater control over their daily lives.
Examining the Technology Trend
Since its conception in 1962 - which, as the Internet Society explains, occurred when MIT’s J.C.R. Licklider developed a memo directory system, allowing individuals to exchange information through a single packet-switch network - the Internet has promised communication. Through it, users can quickly share ideas, queries, and opinions. It’s joined the global market in a common cause of conversation.
For seniors, however, this conversation is often stilted. According to the United States Census Bureau, Internet access and usage is distinctly less common among those 65 and older:
- Total Households: 27,201
- Total Households With Desktop Computer: 62%
- Total Households With Portable Computer: 31%
- Total Households With Some Internet Access: 58%
- Total Households With High-Speed Internet Access: 56%
These numbers are stark contrasts to other demographics - with 77% of youths boasting Internet access and 81% of Millennials. There is a distinct lag in technology among seniors, and the reasons for this prove plentiful.
Understanding Digital Difficulties
Fusing every day with technology is no simple task for seniors. A series of complications instead plague their every attempt. According to a study by the Pew Research Organization, those 65 and older express several key doubts about the Internet:
Pew Research reports two out of every five seniors suffers from a physical handicap (including chronic pain or disease). These individuals are 20% less likely to use the Internet than those in good health, and they’re also 18% less likely to have broadband access. Debilitating issues - such as failing eyesight, arthritis, or muscle degeneration - directly impact their abilities to seek out computers.
Pew Research notes that 35% of seniors believe that the Internet offers little to no value, unsure of the accuracy of the information it offers. A lack of access, they claim, has no negative effect on their daily lives. This leads them to avoid logging on to engines, news portals, and other social hubs.
Pew Research discovered that a staggering 77% of seniors feel unprepared to adopt new technology (such as desktop computers, smartphones, or tablets). 56% of these individuals also admit to an inability to utilize online sites actively - including Facebook or Twitter - without guidance. This creates a surge of uncertainty, with those living alone unable to understand the Internet fully.
These issues shape the senior influence on technology - with physical limitations, general disinterest, and unconfident attitudes keeping men and women away from the Internet. This is a mistake, and it’s one that must be corrected immediately.
Creating Opportunities: Recognizing the Benefits of Internet Usage for Seniors
Millennials have long since been inoculated into the digital age. These individuals - known collectively as Gen Yers - have aged with technology, adapting to its every incarnation. They’ve transitioned from landlines to smartphones, desktop computers to tablets. They understand the online world.
Seniors, comparatively, don’t. They’re limited by scarcer Internet interactions and a lack of general access, making it difficult to adapt to changing platforms. The necessity of this adaptation, however, is impossible to deny - with regular online usage promoting several key advantages for those over the age of 65.
The sad reality many seniors face is a need for home-based care. According to a study from the National Center of Biotechnology Information, approximately 10% of the total population is house-bound - whether from physical disabilities (such as diabetes, stroke, or cardiovascular disease) or mental disabilities (such as dementia, depression, and paranoid disorders). These individuals are confined to their beds, and the outside world is often beyond their reach.
The Internet provides a way to rediscover it.
By accessing search engines, seniors can connect to both news and individuals - sharing their thoughts with others, staying abreast of developing information, and maintaining a link to the world. Through the simple push of a button, they can explore the endless miles beyond their homes.
- Frontal Cluster Activation: 4.05 Voxel Rating
- Temporal Cluster Activation: 4.01 Voxel Rating
- Visual Cluster Activation: 4.4 Voxel Rating
- Occipital Lobe Cluster Activation: 3.89 Voxel Rating
- Hippocampus Cluster Activation: 3.79 Voxel Rating
- Frontal Cluster Activation: 3.7 Voxel Rating
- Temporal Cluster Activation: 3.41 Voxel Rating
- Visual Cluster Activation: 4.31 Voxel Rating
- Occipital Lobe Cluster Activation: 3.85 Voxel Rating
- Hippocampus Cluster Activation: 3.68 Voxel Rating
The clichés claim that wisdom follows age. Too often, however, seniors find their mental functions interrupted - with a study from the Alzheimer's Association noting that 10% to 25% of the total population suffers from some form of impairment. These impairments render individuals unable to perform their routines and interfere with their well-being.
The Internet serves as a way to combat this growing concern. According to a study from Psychology Today, the use of computers sharply enhances neural activity, with screens stimulating the brain’s synapses and increasing overall prefrontal engagements:
These numbers showcase a subtle - but crucial - distinction between seniors, with tech users experiencing better brain function than others. The study notes that the Internet sparks increased responses, with individuals navigating multiple resources (such as text, images, and videos). This creates a more dynamic learning experience and helps to maintain the mind’s logic abilities. Through this, cognitive impairment can be countered more effectively.
Retirement is meant to provide seniors with a much-deserved rest, allowing them to reap the rewards of their efforts and enjoy financial stability. This stability eludes many men and women, however - with rising costs of living and unsteady Social Security policies leaving futures unsettled.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that many individuals seek further employment after their retirements. According to a study from Aging Work, 54% of seniors say they’ll maintain some position (with 81% citing part-time goals and 19% citing full-time goals). The need for supplemental income defines the majority.
The Internet can now provide that income. By establishing a home-based business - such as an eCommerce store that offers handmade goods or even a blogging platform that generates ad revenue - seniors can regain their financial independence, and a recent survey by U.S. News reveals that 13% of men and women intend to launch their own company. The spirit of entrepreneurialism thrives online.
- Arthritis: impacts 49.7% of the total senior population.
- Cardiac Complications: impacts 37% of men and 26% of women.
- Cancer: impacts 28% of men and 21% of women.
- Respiratory Disease: impacts 10% of men and 13% of women.
- Diabetes: impacts 24% of men and 18% of women.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: impact 11% of the total senior population.
- Finding medical specialists.
- Ordering prescriptions.
- Ordering medical equipment.
- Contacting their physicians (telecommuting office visits are available for those who are bedridden).
- Verifying healthcare policies.
- Purchasing further insurance.
- ... and more.
Poor health is an unfortunate truth of aging. Seniors experience a diverse - and devastating - series of symptoms, with Everyday Health noting the increased effects of disease:
These conditions - along with osteoporosis, influenza, depression, and obesity - directly affect each senior’s well-being, contributing to weak immune systems and potentially deadly consequences.
The Internet offers a way to lessen those consequences.
By connecting seniors to fast information (including medical journals, emerging studies, news articles, and even Medicaid support) it provides a way for them to become more proactive in their health. It allows them to fully access critical medical data and better understand their available options. This may include:
The Internet enables seniors to take control of their bodies and directly address their medical needs. This ensures improved well-being.
Virtual reality directly affects actual reality - and those effects can be quite positive.
She shuffles back to her computer, flexing her fingers in anticipation and drawing her mouth in a determined line. No screen will best her. She can fix this problem - and she does, eventually retracing her digital steps and locating the information she needs. The Internet offers her vital answers (it simply demands a bit of patience to find them). That blasted beach ball is no match for her.
Seniors can greatly benefit from technology, with the online world delivering:
- Improved Connectivity.
- Enhanced Cognitive Functions.
- New Income Channels.
- Increased Medical Knowledge and Support.
Introduce seniors to the computer, offer them the assistance they need, and ensure that every day is filled with communication and key data streams. Doing so will promote a better quality of life for all.