Home Posts tagged Northern Hilltowns Consortium of Councils on Aging
Daily News

WILLIAMSBURG — A press conference announcing the release of a new report on aging and technology and advocating for digital-equity solutions will take place on Monday, June 10 at 10:30 a.m. in the second-floor auditorium at the Williamsburg Town Office, 141 Main St., Haydenville.

Co-hosted by the Northern Hilltowns Consortium of Councils on Aging and the Alliance for Digital Equity, the event will introduce the report, “Aging and Technology in Seven Rural Hilltowns,” which addresses ongoing inequities in the aging adult community regarding access to high-speed internet, equipment, and devices; digital skills; and the knowledge needed to participate in digital life.

The report compiles data gathered via mailed questionnaire from more than 1200 people — representing 34% of people age 60 and over — in the towns of Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield, Westhampton, Worthington, and Williamsburg, locally referred to as the hilltowns.

Peg Whalen from the Northern Hilltowns Consortium, who co-authored the report, shared the ways that aging adults are navigating digital life. “A resident described the effect of a costly scam experience on their daily life and the subsequent fear that limits the ongoing use of technology. These costs go beyond lost money. The extent of fear for safety online and through theft is clear from the survey of our aging adult population.”

The report was encouraged in part through the Alliance for Digital Equity, a regional coalition of 64 organizations throughout all four counties in Western Mass. that amplifies local needs and solutions for bridging the digital divide. With recent cuts by Congress to the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, advocates have been raising the alarm about the 70,000 Western Mass. residents most affected by these cuts to affordable internet, including aging adults.

Kathy Bisbee, director of the Alliance for Digital Equity, noted that, while many residents of the region may have access to the internet, a hidden inequity lies in the lack of up-to-date technology, lack of digital literacy, or knowing how to fully use devices.

“While some residents have access to both devices and the internet, we know anecdotally that even those that do have internet access often do not have updated software and hardware, or the digital literacy and digital skills to fully utilize the tools they have to take advantage of everything digital participation has to offer,” she said, adding that, while digital equity is a social determinant of health and healthy communities, it is also a factor in civic life and participation in hobbies, and can be an antidote to loneliness and loss of connection often felt by older adults.

The alliance’s device-distribution and digital-literacy skill program offers resources to aging adults and vulnerable populations. More information can be found at alliancefordigitalequity.com.

Meanwhile, the Northern Hilltown Consortium of Councils on Aging offers the TechConnect program to increase digital literacy among rural older adults through the support of grants and their partnership with the alliance.

According to the report, results show that “many older adults have less access to information and services because they are unable to use technology. Although many older adults do use technology, many others do not use or have access to computers, the internet, training, and other technology. This reality has unique characteristics and causes which affect older adults, especially those living in rural communities.”

The event will be hosted by Bisbee; Whalen; Jan Gibeau, director of the Chesterfield Council on Aging; and Melissa Wilson, director of the Williamsburg Senior Center. Local residents will share their firsthand stories about the impact of the digital world on older adults. State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa will also be on hand to lend insight.