According to a report by the Older Adults Technology Services, nearly 22 million American seniors do not have broadband access at home, representing 42 percent of the nation’s over-65 population. As a result, many seniors are struggling to register for their COVID-19 vaccinations.
CTN’s marketing director, Lauren Cotter, was quoted in a recent Vox article on this issue. “The pandemic exposed how wide and deep the digital divide runs,” says Cotter. The vaccination process exacerbates the issue … and many low-income and non-English-speaking seniors are struggling to get registered online. At CTN, we support seniors in five different languages and provide the digital training they need to get registered.”
An article by the Associated Press claims that seniors are calling doctors in tears over frustration with online appointment systems. MedicineNet points out that seniors without Wi-Fi are struggling to find clear information about their options. While lack of connectivity is a major hurdle to getting seniors vaccinated, it is not only access to the internet which is lacking. It is a lack of training, education, and digital literacy.
As many vaccination centers require online appointments, unexpected problems arise for older populations that do not regularly use technology. Seniors might lack an email address to register an online account. Some websites have confusing interfaces that are difficult to navigate. High demand is crashing call centers — causing seniors to ask their questions by email and reading FAQ pages. Appointment calendars, pop-up windows, and multiple links add to the confusion.
Now more than ever, older adults need internet training — and Community Tech Network is working to mitigate the digital divide. Part of this work involves training seniors directly in our Home Connect program. It also entails training and partnering with other organizations so that they can implement our Home Connect curriculum with their clients.
A confusing web page or lack of email address shouldn’t stand in the way of seniors receiving a potentially life-saving vaccine. We are committed to keeping our seniors safe, connected, and healthy.