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Technophiles should teach technophobes now
Some seniors are left out of the technology tsunami. According to the Pew Research latest numbers, 38% of those 65+ are using the Internet at home. Although it wasn't provided, let's assume that this percentage shrinks by age decade -- until you get down to the optimistic Evercare 100 at 100, with 21% of healthy centenarians admitting that they go online. But of course, this means that the vast majority are not using the Internet at home, or on their cell phones or at all. My take -- the older and frailer they are, the more they are missing out.
Three tiny news items -- three small steps for senior computer literacy. In New York, Microsoft and Self-Help have announced a virtual senior center -- a way that home-bound seniors can share in the activities of a local senior center through video conferencing. In Tuscaloosa, a public library has partnered with Generations Online to offer training in use of computers -- the library has the computers and software already, but is running out of funding to pay the Senior Aides who do the training. And in Rockville, Maryland, the Jewish Council on Aging is seeing a growing number of seniors sign up for computer training, fearful of being left out of connecting with their peers.
Meanwhile, boomers and seniors have a job problem. Seniors continue to have difficulty finding paying work, even when they want it, sometimes due to lack of current skills. And according to MetLife's recent study, only 66% of middle boomers appear to be working full time (either for companies or themselves). So the way I see it, some seniors want to work and may lack computer skills. And middle boomers have the capacity to help seniors acquire them.
While things are slow, tech-smart boomers should train tech-fearful seniors. There are plenty of city, regional, and federal programs, places where the infrastructure is established (as in the Generations Online partnership with libraries). With stimulus money for broadband initiatives in play, and where enthusiastic teachers can find seniors to teach (think Councils on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and independent and assisted living communities). Here's where the job-to-be comes in, combine teaching in a senior center with starting a one-on-one business to teach seniors in their own home -- as one boomer did in New Jersey. As seniors gain even minimal comfort level with a computer -- especially considering easy-to-use products available -- they can't help but expand their ability to find a greater variety of work.
The 'aging' profession should step up. Professionals (geriatric care managers, area agency on aging, social services non-profits, etc.), consider a small ad in a local publication to find boomers who have some time on their hands and could teach seniors who say they are computer phobic about Internet surfing (a depression antidote), online benefits applications (a financial necessity), job hunting online and social networking. For starters. Who knows, those who volunteer could be very helpful in more broadly serving the needs of your clients and community.