On Friday, October 18th, the Project GOAL hosted a research panel entitled “The Wellness Benefits of Broadband for Older Adults.” The panel discussed the importance of broadband technology and how new broadband deployment can impact healthcare, management and the quality of life and older adults. Presenters included Mary Madden from Pew Internet and American Life Project, Walter Woods from AARP, George S. Ford from the Phoenix Center and Thomas Kamber from Older Adults Technology Services (OATS).
Mary Madden focused on smartphone ownership and social media use among the older adult community. The older adult community is the fastest growing segment of the population to adopt social media. Regardless of the high adoption and usage rates, there are still significant barriers to social networking use. Privacy management, security and the perception that social media is primarily for younger adults are blockades that keep individuals from adopting.
Walter Woods from AARP looked at the chronic social isolation that many aging adults face. Isolation is the main issue when it comes to broadband adoption. The objective of the AARP Foundation and its Technology division is to create and promote community in order to prevent an ecosystem breakdown or to alleviate the impact of an already damaged environment.
George S. Ford from the Phoenix Center reviewed his study on the correlation between internet use and mental health in older adults. The evidence is mixed. Based on a cross section of data from 2006, the study found a 20% reduction in depression categorization from Internet use. This study poses a lot more questions and opens the door for much more research.
Thomas Kamber focused on two studies conducted by OATS. The first study examined the way Electronic Health Records encouraged interaction from seniors. OATS hypothesized that access to HER’s would get seniors more active in managing their healthcare activities. Participants very much liked remote training from OATS and providers were very enthusiastic about the project itself (Patients Accessing Technology at Home (PATH)). The second study was on the social impact of OATS. The organization provides computer/Internet training for elderly adults. The data shows there adoption of the Internet increases community interaction and the viability of technology focused senior centers.