Richard Devitt, an 86-year-old retired restauranteur living in Massachusetts, doesn’t have an email account and still uses a flip phone. “I honestly don’t need or want them,” he said about smartphones and social media. The fact that attending church services, birthday parties, and even medical appointments now requires logging in online hasn’t changed his mind.
There’s a widespread idea that seniors are technologically illiterate or dislike devices, but that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, older adults adopt tech they find useful and resist tech they don’t. In normal times, that can be problematic when it comes to filing online forms or accessing test results. But in the pandemic, when internet connectivity drives social engagement and medical care, this misconception could be deadly. Roughly 27 percent of Americans over 65 are not online, and understanding why is key to changing that. If companies designed devices and software with value for seniors, not as many older people would find themselves on the other side of the digital divide. During a pandemic, that could save lives.
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