Since the pandemic’s arrival, the digital divide among older adults has become a significant barrier to helping them access programs and services only accessible remotely through technology. This situation spotlights the urgent need to equip vulnerable populations at higher risk for social isolation with technology resources. The Aging Services Council of Central Texas (ASC) felt there needed to be a coordinated effort to address the digital inequity among older adults to help combat social isolation and its effects on health and quality of life.
In May, the ASC reached out to potential partners committed to digital equity for older adults, resulting in the formation of the Austin Social Inclusion Task Force. CTN was asked to join this collaborative working group composed of representatives from local and national senior services organizations, the City of Austin, and the University of Texas at Austin.
The task force has identified the most significant barriers to digital literacy training and created and conducted a technology needs survey, the results of which can be viewed here (PDF). Based in part on the survey results, the task force is committed to advocate for policy changes, increased funding, support for further research, and increasing collaboration and awareness with government, organizations, and businesses that can move this agenda forward.
The organization’s goals are
- Advocate for digital equity for older adults
- Influence policies that will support digital equity
- Implement affordable digital inclusion programs
- Collect data regarding current technology needs of older adults in Central Texas
- Conduct research studies that will monitor the efficacy of digital inclusion programs
Here is a link to a video of a presentation recently made to Austin’s Commission on Aging outlining these goals.
To date, task force members have raised $40,000, which will result in at least 50 seniors gaining access to devices, skills, or home internet. By increasing partnerships and adopting programs and best practices set forth by other cities that are at the forefront of digital equity for older adults, Austin can become a leader in the digital equity movement, advancing its status as an age-friendly city.
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