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Digital Equality For All Ages – Why It Matters In India

Companies working towards building this equality found unprecedented demand and adoption during the pandemic.

The United Nations established International Older Persons Day on October 1st to focus on issues affecting older adults. The United Nations calculated 703 million persons aged 65 or over in 2019. This number will rise to 1.5 billion in the next three decades. Older people need access to digital devices and the internet to ensure inclusion and reduce social isolation.

This year the theme for International Older Persons Day was “Digital Equity for All Ages.” The UN aims to support access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons. India’s 60+ population is expected to reach 160 million by 2025, according to a United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report.

Many older adults still lack access to the internet and devices. Resources need to be allocated for those who do not have these tools. In addition, there are millions of older adults with access to devices and the internet but who lack the knowledge to utilise their devices to the best of their ability.

In reality, older adults often do not have the tech skills needed to compete in an increasingly tech-driven economy. However, the myth that older adults are “not able to learn technology” is just that – a myth. They were the first generation inventors of much of today’s technology, from computers to the internet. Moreover, the pandemic further highlighted the gap in the adoption of digital tools.

Companies working towards building this equality found unprecedented demand and adoption during the pandemic. Efforts like this address the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap to digital inclusion, which is meant to establish concrete actions that bring awareness to the digital divide, leverage resources to support bridging this gap, and overcome stereotypes about older adults and technology.

Although older adults can learn technology, it has to be adapted to their needs and taught by peers. However, many older adults, even those with access to the internet and devices, struggle with learning as large companies rarely focus on this audience. Every service provider assumes that one can learn from watching videos or searching the internet, but this is ineffective.

We have to create accessibility by building simple to use platforms, even custom designed to meet the needs of older adults. Partnerships with local governments, non-profits, healthcare plans and services and other organisations can help seniors get connected. With confidence in technology, older adults can access the resources available to them on the internet.

Many learners start by understanding how to use their digital devices with classes on how to use an iPhone or Android device. Then they advance on to understanding how to use and integrate apps like Zoom, Gmail, Banking apps, grocery apps, telehealth apps and more. Each person starts at their comfort level and, if needed, can retake classes as many times as they need to master the skills. In addition, peer led classes allows for a judgment-free interactive learning environment.

Being able to use technology effectively has opened up a world of opportunities for older adults. These opportunities include connecting with loved ones, participating further in digital communities, and even working remotely.

The United Nations has also announced the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) as an opportunity to bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector for ten years of concerted, catalytic, and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.

Lifelong learning—particularly learning to use technology—is critical to solving issues that limit older adults’ independence or economic opportunities or prevent them from accessing essential resources. In addition, as GetSetUp has shown, a learning-based community of peers for older adults can help make ageing more equitable and fun!

Source: Business World

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