Senior adults overcome Internet barriers through public-private partnerships, local training and affordable access
For decades, CenturyLink has worked hard to connect people from all walks of life in both rural and urban areas with reliable communications services that help them stay in touch with friends, family and the world in which they live. During the month of May, as America celebrates Older Americans Month, we reflect on the work that we’ve been doing to get older Americans throughout our service areas online.
There are currently about 43.1 million Americans (roughly 13.7% of the total U.S. population) who are 65 years old or older, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report. Even though Americans in that age group saw the biggest change in Internet use among any age category over the last 11 years (up 32 percent since 2002), a third of them say they don’t personally use the Internet. New research conducted by Michigan State University has found that Internet use among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent. The study found that Internet use among older Americans helps in reducing the symptoms of depression brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Broadband adoption and use among older Americans is expected to increase in the coming years. One reason is that many resources and agencies that older Americans rely on are increasingly migrating into Internet-based services. This trend is driving more and more older Americans to go online for health information, for their banking needs, to buy goods and services, and to stay in contact with family and friends.
To help improve older Americans’ computer literacy, CenturyLink held more than 100 computer training sessions led by its local employees throughout many of our service areas over a two-year period under the Internet Basics program. CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program offers qualifying low-income consumers the opportunity to get discounted Internet service as well as a Netbook computer at a reduced price and free basic computer training classes for all in select service areas.
The chart below indicates that 58 percent of those who participated in the CenturyLink Internet Basics training sessions were 55 years old or older. Many participants were also first-time computer users.
CenturyLink Internet Basics Training Session Attendance
Since launching the Internet Basics program in fall 2011, CenturyLink has collaborated with local communities to reach many individuals and families who need Internet access. One key lesson learned is that interest in the Internet and computer training is not limited to English-speaking senior citizens. CenturyLink employees in Washington state used their language skills to translate computer training materials into different languages and held several special training sessions for older, non-English speaking residents.
Another public-private partnership that produced great results was a special Internet Basics training session held last year in Ville Platte, La., a rural community in central Louisiana. The event included federal, state and local elected officials who spoke about the importance of a high-speed Internet connection for personal and business growth. More than 100 older Americans from the surrounding area attended that session and learned about the many benefits of going online. Many of the participants had never used a computer before and were amazed at the information available through the Internet as well as how easy it was to use the technology.
CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program is still being offered throughout its service areas to qualifying individuals and families. A number of local community organizations representing libraries, schools, senior centers, councils on aging, public housing authorities, tribal councils, the United Way and others have been strong supporters of the program. We thank these partner organizations for their support and hope we can continue to work together to help close the broadband education and adoption gap that separates so many Americans, especially older Americans.