Second installment of a three-part series on digital inclusion and seniors
in recognition of National Digital Inclusion Week, October 4-8, 2021
Now more than ever, the internet is central to our everyday lives. We depend on it to find jobs, learn and do homework, stay entertained, shop and access health information. Most importantly, we rely on this technology to stay connected with family and friends.
For some people, including senior citizens, understanding how to use a computer and navigate the internet can be overwhelming. According to a recent study published by the International Telecommunications Union, less than half of the world’s population over 60 years old are online – and engagement declines significantly as age increases.
Wanda Dudley – who worked for the federal government for over 30 years in various capacities, including as a clerk typist, account technician, financial assistant and financial analyst – credits her work experience, as well as her oldest son, who worked in the IT field, for helping her adapt to technology and learn how to navigate the internet. Dudley often uses teleconferencing programs for health appointments and church and Bible studies, and to connect with family and friends. But she knows firsthand about the fears and hesitancy some other seniors have about technology and being on the internet. She said many of her peers are living in the past and don’t want to adapt to the current times. “Some seniors are not computer literate and are afraid to learn something new.”
Dudley has lived a life of service and loves making a positive difference in the lives of others. So, she became an advocate for the United Planning Organization’s (UPO) digital skills pilot training program.
UPO is a nonprofit that “unites people with opportunities,” giving Washington, D.C.’s low-income residents the tools to reach their full potential and become self-sufficient. UPO tears down barriers so people can build themselves up with 30 programs in early childhood education, youth development, job training and placement, housing, health and volunteering. UPO has been a Comcast community partner for the past 10 years and was instrumental in sharing information about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.
“We meet people where they are,” said Andrea Thomas, President and CEO of UPO. “They show us where they want to go, and we give them the tools to get there. Not just seniors – schoolchildren and our vocational trainees risk being left behind in the global marketplace unless they have support to help them reach their full potential. Having partners like Comcast walking beside us means so much.”
Through UPO’s eight-week digital skills training program, Dudley helped dozens of seniors sign up so they could get familiar with technology. Participants learned how to create and send an email, access the internet, download and upload files and use search engines and teleconferencing programs.
“Seniors told us they needed to connect with their doctors, grandchildren and friends during the pandemic,” said Thomas. “We ensured that they had laptops, reliable internet and computer training, but these are just the first steps to addressing digital illiteracy and digital inequity.”
“Many seniors have low incomes and are worried about paying their bills,” said Dudley “Some didn’t even realize that sending an email is free. Overall, the experience was pretty good for the seniors who participated in the program.”
For the last decade, through its Internet Essentials program, Comcast has been on a mission to help connect low-income Americans to the internet. Project UP is the company’s comprehensive initiative to help advance digital equity and build a future of Unlimited Possibilities. Backed by a $1 billion commitment to reach 50 million people, Project UP encompasses the programs and community partnerships across Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky that connect people to the internet, advance economic mobility and open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers and creators.
Complementing Comcast’s ongoing commitment to keeping customers connected, the company is participating in the federal government’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, a temporary discount program available on all tiers of Xfinity Internet service, including Internet Essentials. New and existing customers who are interested in participating can receive up to a $50/month credit on their internet bill from Comcast and can visit www.xfinity.com/EBB to see what options are available to them, and register.
Dudley remains committed to helping seniors move into the 21st century and get more comfortable in our digital world. Her advice to seniors is, “Exhale and take the ride because it will be amazing to learn digital skills and see what it can do for you.”