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Improving Digital Connectivity for Older Adults

Recent News | May 15, 2023

Engage As We Age panel discussion.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Since COVID elevated the reality that access to the internet is a necessity, not a luxury, National Church Residences has been leading the way to increase equitable digital access to improve the lives of older adults.

National Church Residences hosted “Engage as We Age – Improving Digital Connectivity for Older Adults” in partnership with the Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition with main sponsor National Affordable Housing Trust in April to spotlight efforts underway to improve access to high-speed internet. Over 100 representatives from local, state and national organizations gathered to share updates and innovative solutions.

Emcee Michelle Norris, executive vice president of external affairs and strategic partnerships at National Church Residences, said her organization is working at every level to ensure that older adults are not left behind — again.

“While millions of Americans remain in the dark, there’s now once-in-a-generation public investment to bridge this divide,” said Norris. “With greater investment being directed at developing accessibility and training, digital technology has the potential to become an important tool for reducing loneliness and identifying community resources that significantly improves the ability for older adults to remain living on their own.”

Anna Miller, manager, Digital Equity & Inclusion at BroadbandOhio, shared how state and federal dollars are being invested to provide internet access to Ohioans at reduced rates. The state is on track to connect every county by 2025.

Jordan Davis, executive director of Smart Columbus and leader of the Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition, shared that 69% of those in Ohio without home internet view cost as a very important factor, and more than 100,000 households face adoption barriers such as lack of comfort with digital tools, language and navigation.

“Older adults without access are more likely to experience a worrisome trend of isolation and loneliness,” Davis said. She invited participants to join the coalition and be sure the interests of older adults are represented in all four of their focus areas, which include connectivity, device access, digital life skills, as well as outreach and adoption.

Panelist Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Association, discussed how the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal benefit program that helps ensure households can afford broadband access. The benefit provides a discount on internet services and discounts on items such as a laptop or tablet, which is a big step in digital connectivity for all. While Columbus and Cleveland lead the way nationally in implementing ACP, significant connectivity gaps remain in Ohio. She applauded the state’s efforts to close those gaps quickly.

Panelist Joelle Poe, CEO of Centered Care said this will be an ongoing effort. “As we begin to tackle the first problem of getting seniors connected and getting them access to devices, all of us have this awesome opportunity to start thinking about how we can create more meaningful human connections through digital experiences,” Poe said.

Susan DiMickele, who will become National Church Residences CEO on July 1, concluded the forum by reflecting on the day’s discussions. She challenged participants to continue their work to actively expand high-quality broadband access for older adults and said National Church Residences will keep its steadfast commitment to being a convener and industry thought leader to improve the lives of older adults.

For more information on this story or to see additional resources on internet access, please visit: https://www.nationalchurchresidences.org/engage-as-we-age/

About National Church Residences

Originating from a Christian commitment of service, National Church Residences provides an array of healthcare services and a variety of housing options to 46,000 seniors. The nonprofit organization is driven by a vision to scale for mission impact by advancing better living for 100,000 seniors by 2030, wherever they call home. With more than 360 communities across the United States, it is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of affordable senior housing and the largest manager of service coordinators. The organization also offers a variety of additional senior living options, home and community-based services, as well as permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless and disabled. For more information, visit us at NationalChurchResidences.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.