AARP: Seniors Need Better Internet Access to Support Aging in Place

Seniors need to have better access to high-speed Internet in order to benefit from Web-based technologies that support aging in place such as telehealth and “smart home” systems, says AARP in a Public Policy Institute report

Many older adults still do not have affordable, high-speed connectivity at home, and a review of 2010’s National Broadband Plan suggests a “slow and uncertain progress” to address barriers to older adults’ adoption and use of broadband, according to the report. 

Just under four in ten people aged 65 and older had high-speed Internet access in their homes as of 2012, compared to 77% of the 30-49 age demographic. 

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Among minorities, access dips much lower, to 18% of African-Americans aged 60 and older, and 20% of Hispanics in the same age cohort. 

Lacking access to broadband access is a problem, according to an FCC chairman who said that “broadband has gone from being a luxury to being a necessity for full participation in our economy and society.” 

While the Internet was once predominantly used by consumers for email and reading Web pages, says AARP, it has become a more powerful and common platform with many more capacities.

Internet-based technologies can help support the needs and ambitions of older adults in five interrelated areas, the report says: personal fulfillment, health preservation, social connectedness, functional capability and activity, and caregiver support.

The ability to work from home thanks to higher-speed Internet service, for example, could be “particularly valuable” to older adults facing “growing demands to manage complex health, retirement, and care arrangements.” 

Other uses include self-management of chronic diseases that can help prevent or postpone functional decline, such as home-based “smart medical services.” Game systems like Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation can help seniors stay physically active and encourage seniors to exercise, while video conferencing and telepresence technology can connect patients living at home with health professionals and services. 

“Truly high-speed Internet access can make the world more accessible for older Americans, providing convenient pathways to the resources,a captivities, and services that empower them to live healthy, independent, and meaningful lives,” AARP says, going to on recommend several steps policymakers should take to expand access.

Access A Connection for All Ages: Enabling the Benefits of High-Speed Internet Access for Older Adults.

Written by Alyssa Gerace