The Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau serves as the FCC’s face with the American public. One of my recent outreach assignments was to deliver a presentation to the monthly forum of the Lifetime Learning Institute (LLI) of Northern Virginia, which provides continuing education opportunities to older Americans at the Annandale Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College.
Older Americans are an important group for the FCC to reach since we believe that access to high-speed Internet service – broadband – can improve the quality of life for all Americans. But many of the older Americans we routinely interact with are less likely than the rest of the country to subscribe to broadband, own a computer, or have the skills that are needed to use the Internet – commonly referred to as “digital literacy” skills. In addition, we find that many older Americans don’t believe the Internet is relevant to their daily lives and are concerned about taking on new expenses when living on low or fixed incomes. Vision and hearing loss or other challenges can make it difficult for older Americans to use a computer, and adaptive technologies pose a steeper learning curve. Many older Americans are also concerned about possible fraud and identity theft in cyberspace.
But research shows that once older Americans learn how to use the Internet, they quickly begin using email, going online to do research, make appointments, shop, take courses, manage bank accounts and electronic medical records, and communicate with friends and family – increasingly through social media sites and techniques. Older Americans are also buying more cell phones, using e-readers and tablets, and adapting to advances in telemedicine. I was heartened to find out that the Annadale group was very tech savvy!
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