KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As we get older, it gets harder and harder to keep up with new technology, but during the pandemic the internet became one of the only lifelines to the outside world. That left some older Americans out of the loop.
Sandy Sooter said COVID-19 forced her to get acquainted with the digital world, which served as an essential service when seeing others in-person was nearly impossible.
“Everything comes with written instructions, but now you buy something new and I'm going, 'where’s the instructions?' and I get told it’s online,” Sooter said.
A 2017 Pew Research poll showed one third of adults over the age of 65 reported never using the internet, and only 58% of Americans over the age of 65 had broadband internet service at home.
Staff in the Technology Center at Northland Shepherd's Centers said they’re working around the clock to bridge the digital gap.
“They were shut off from everything due to the restrictions for going out, especially our older adults. They couldn't get out,” Christina Allen, technology coordinator at the organization, said. “They couldn't call for their medicine and everything is online, very rarely were they able to go somewhere for assistance.”
The center opened last summer and Sooter explained that’s were she was able to get the help she needed. Sooter said she obtained one-on-one lessons on how to answer Zoom calls, surf her smart phone and safely navigate the internet.
“Somebody is going to be taking advantage of you and that's why so many people need to get out and about and learn about the internet,” Sooter said. “If it's on the internet, it's not always going to be true, and it's not always going to be for the best for you.”
The center helps people with a variety of technological needs, ranging from online genealogy courses to understanding QR codes.
However, the center prides itself most on providing a different sort of tool: patience.
“Even though we're older, we still need to be educating ourselves all the time,” Sooter said. “This is a great place to learn what we don't know about the internet about all of our electronics, because I don't know what I would do without my iPhone.”
Two Americas is part of a KSHB and Scripps signature issue to help introduce our community to the America you know and the America you might not know. Our role as the media is to share the news of the day, but we also seek to give a voice to people we don't hear from often.
Of course, there are many parts that make up our community, so we’re not just showing you two and we’re not pitting two sides against each other. Instead, we’re hoping to highlight solutions and showcase different perspectives to help us all better understand our area's culture, our area's past, and why our community feels the way it does today.