Two in five seniors do not have internet access. That translates to 20 million older adults in the United States, according to Older Adults Technology Services, also known as OATS.
Internet access has always been important, but it has become even more essential during the pandemic. Seniors are missing out on a lot of essential needs if they don't have the internet.
That can include things like online banking, ordering groceries, and socializing with friends and family. They may also be missing out on crucial information about the coronavirus vaccine.
“A lot of people are wanting to sign up for the vaccines and there's an absolute mess with a lot of older people who are trying to get in and register. And virtually all those registrations are online,” said Tom Kamber, Executive Director of OATS.
Registering for vaccines online is the quickest way to get in line, which may be a big incentive for a senior to get internet access. They may also want it for other reasons.
If you want to help out, first ask them what they want to do with internet. That can help you find the appropriate tools for them to get online.
Experts at OATS say it's important they have a large screen that's at least eleven inches. Using a smartphone won't be very helpful.
“We strongly recommend that people get a decent stable wireline connection at home if they can. They don't need spectacular speeds. They don't need 100 gigabytes or something like that. A basic consumer online connection is really critical,” said Kamber.
There are resources to help older adults with computer and internet skills. SeniorPlanet.org offers free classes on the basics to specific things like banking and video chatting.