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Getting Older Adults to Tech Parity in 2021

More programs are emerging to get older adults to tech parity.  Maybe 2020 was the tipping point and 2021 is the year. The first eye-opener was the OATS/Humana report about the 22 million adults 65+ who lack home broadband. Then AARP and OATS joined together to teach tech to older adults. This followed late-year 2020 activity, including the $10 million in funding for tech training company GetSetUp. and note the $18 million of funding for Papa from Comcast Ventures to combat social isolation in older adults and launch tech-enabled health offering called Papa Health. And there are efforts here and there to help seniors get or upgrade computers.

Boosting tech access to devices and broadband is a 2021 requirement.  The social isolation brought on by Covid-19 was an eye-opener for tech firms, investors, retailers, and startups.  Not only did it worsen lives through social isolation and loneliness – but it precipitated poorer health outcomes for those living alone, especially those avoiding visits to the doctor.  The pandemic grabbed the attention of tech developers worldwide. Technology investment targeting older adults has also grown this past year -- consider Primetime Partners and Bold for senior fitness or Ziegler Linkage with VirtuSense for fall prevention. 

Products matter – but making them friendlier is still elusive.  Over the years, numerous offerings of senior-friendly website and technology products have emerged, many cataloged in the 2021 Market Overview of Technology for Aging.  Other sites tracking progress include The Gerontechnologist suggesting startups  to watch, and presenting a Market Map as a guide.  Consider Hartford-based Upward and its AgeTech Demo Day or remember the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit.  So much of the effort to create age-friendly technology is really about overcoming design issues with mass market consumer technology

The digital divide is both economic and social.  Consider the barriers to actually doing much on the Internet using a new device. First the social barrier -- one must be persuaded that there is a benefit (like signing up for a vaccine shot).  Next, get a device – these days online.  Go to a few sites and try to buy a low cost smart phone.  Depends on what you mean by low cost and for whom.  Then there is Internet access – find it (12,000 providers!), see discounts and offers (focused on children), and then look for who will help sign an older adult upset the technology up (Geek Squad agents are worried about spreading the virus); verify remotely that it works – and all for low cost. That also seems elusive – add up monthly charges, plus activation fee, plus equipment rental. All of these factors should be tackled in programs to get older adults to tech parity. 

[NOTE: If you know of a service or offering that can help older adults with any of these technology issues, please comment!]


The “last mile” barriers for seniors and their circle of care that you mentioned at the end of the article are the reasons I launched Silver Maple Solutions.  The gap I am filling begins when the circle of care identifies there is an issue and wants to have piece of mind during times when care givers and loved ones can not be on site.  The last mile consists of 1) assessing the senior and their surroundings.  2) determining what thrive in place technology would be ideal for everyone involved in the care.  3) Ordering and configuring the product. 4) Delivery and training the circle of care and the senior to make sure everyone is comfortable. 5) Regular follow up to be sure all is well. 

The past and many current ways of delivering tech to seniors are not working.  Searching on line for a product and having it shipped to the porch of the senior does not solve the problem.  We need to do more and the concierge, white glove service the Silver Maple delivers is what I believe to be the answer.  We now have offices in Milwaukee (where I am) and affiliates in NC, Sarasota, Phoenix and NE. 


I would invite you to take a look at what we are doing to help people thrive in place. 


When I see my 88 old dad, with his smart phone almost never charged, and spending at least 4 hours a day in front of his TV, I believe, TV is what needs to become a channel to reach them - lets get them their exercises, connectivity, medication reminders on their TV.


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