The COVID-19 pandemic brought a rapid acceleration in telemedicine as people looked for ways to have safe access to health care.
While technology kept many people in the United States connected to care and their loved ones through technology, many low-income older people have been left behind by the sudden need to understand and access technology and Internet services.
However, among those who could benefit most from these services are 22 million older adults (65 years of age and older) in the United States who do not have broadband access at home.
Additionally, older adults (aged 62 and over) with incomes less than $ 25,000 at home are 10 times more likely to be offline. Many older adults lack the technological skills needed to use digital resources for health and social support.
New efforts are helping to eliminate these inequalities. CITRIS Health, an organization dedicated to promoting the wellbeing of older adults and caregivers through technology, recently launched Lighthouse for Older Adults.
This project provides one-on-one training, linguistic and peer-based technical assistance to equip senior adult residents of affordable shared apartments with high-speed broadband access, easy-to-use devices and digital literacy training.
After an initial pilot project, participants reported both an increase in device usage and confidence in the use of their devices. The technology helped connect them with loved ones from whom they were isolated and improved their overall health and wellbeing by reducing social isolation and loneliness.
When asked what their favorite thing to do while using a Google device, one respondent said, “Being able to connect with family and friends visually. And visual means a lot. “
The project leaders hope that success will serve as a model for other such programs.
“Older adults have so much of the connections and health care options that are available with internet access and a basic understanding of technology,” said David Lindeman, CITRIS Health Director and Lighthouse Project Leader. “We look forward to this program being replicated to improve equity in telemedicine.”
Resources that can help other organizations implement similar programs can be found on the Lighthouse projects page on the CITRIS Health website. citris-uc.org.