Disparities in Broadband Internet Use for Older Adults

Excerpt

Create a partnership in health equity that provides a deeper understanding and new knowledge about the impact of addressing local government broadband options for older adults.

Research Project Summary

The lack of broadband internet access can pose serious health and medical risks for older adults, those 65 years and older, who cannot digitally connect with friends and family, healthcare portals, and telemedicine visits. Isolation from these and other activities has been exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the lack of broadband internet access to homes and small businesses across the country. Isolation, loneliness can cause stress, and stress that becomes chronic impairs the immune system. In the short and long term, identified recommendations will help close the digital divide and minimize the pandemic’s ongoing adverse effects by increasing access to technology and implementing digital literacy programs for older adults. This research design aims to identify and recommend remedies for disparities in broadband availability and use among older adults who reside in assisted living and are aging-in-place within Gloucester County, New Jersey. The project findings will also add to the body of knowledge for addressing local and federal government funding for broadband to disparate populations.

Research Project Goals

This study seeks to generate data on access to broadband by older adults within a county borough and the perceptions of those adults on their need for broadband. This comparative study will gather this data from those aging in a senior living facility with access to the internet provided and those aging at home, who might have uneven access to broadband or who access the internet in various ways and contexts. The investigation findings will provide data to those seeking funding to increase older adults’ access to broadband and improve their digital literacy skills.

Research Project Objectives

• Examine social community capacity for older adults aging in living communities—independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term skilled care—and those aging in place—one’s own home independently, regardless of age, income, or ability.

• Investigate the impact differences between older adults with no access, limited access, and limited quality of internet access.

• Clarify how broadband access increases the community’s ability to care for older adults regardless of living preference.

• Assess how broadband creates significant opportunities for older adults to participate in their care.

• Clarify the lack of broadband socialization on life activities and quality of life that may exacerbate chronic illness.