As we age, it becomes harder to maintain our social connections. Families move, friendships change, loved ones pass away and we become less physically mobile. While this is not a new phenomenon, we have never had more technology at our fingertips to allow us to stay connected.
The PCAST report makes a number of recommendations for the federal government to enact policy changes that facilitate leveraging technology to increase social connectivity among older adults:
- Create a national plan to ensure broadband Internet access for all older Americans
- Ensure that older adults are included in negotiated agreements for federal telecommunications approvals
- Develop a plan to support accessible technology training centers for older adults
These policy suggestions are important, but even if we solved all the technology issues that prevent older adults from staying connected, they would still suffer from isolation and reduced social engagement – technology isn’t enough.
In addition to technological solutions and efforts designed to improve the technical literacy of older Americans, we need to find innovative, meaningful ways for their local communities to tap into their skills and expertise. Older adults are a huge resource for communities to build intergenerational bonds that allow them to pass on their expertise and wisdom from decades of experience to younger generations.
Technology is absolutely an enabler for older adults to have increased social engagement and sustained connectivity to their friends and family. But it should not be a substitute for face-to-face, in-person human interaction. In the future, the most innovative solutions and programs will use technology to facilitate more of these in-person connections and help them scale across communities around the nation.
COMING SOON: Part Four in the PCAST Series: Technologies to Support Cognitive and Physical Changes