Posted by:  Jennifer A. Johnson

For many of us who are staying at home during this pandemic, the internet has become the principal source of action and connection. In many states, lawyers can now create estate plans remotely from start to finish. Likewise, many doctors are now practicing tele-medicine over the internet. Groceries, pharmaceuticals, clothing, all these and more can be ordered through the internet, without setting foot out the door.

But these opportunities are only meaningful if everybody has a strong internet connection – and knows how to use it!

For some older adults, this may not be so simple. When the extreme quarantine measures are combined with an inability to connect remotely with family and friends, these older adults feel even more isolated and lonely. This is especially difficult for those in nursing homes. Unless a person has at least some internet service available and the skills to know how to use it, this epidemic imposes barriers to quality of life, banking, health care, social networks, government services, and education. And the effects of this virus are likely to be felt into the future as the “new normal,” especially for the most vulnerable among us.

It’s for those reasons that internet is increasingly recognized as vital infrastructure. For those who remember the days before the internet, though, there can be numerous obstacles to becoming internet-enabled and savvy. Nevertheless, solutions are available. The key is to get creative.

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Young family members might like nothing better than to be asked to help an older adult learn internet ways and means. For older adults with some computer literacy, on-line tutorials might be helpful. Here is a collection of some online tutorial sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/online-computer-classes-1098078

https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/subjects/technology/

Older adults often are not as aware of computer security concerns. Here is a downloadable educational booklet from the British Broadcasting Company. It has important information on computer security.

https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/connect/BBC_First_Click_Beginners_Guide.pdf

Or, the organization Senior Planet is provides programs “help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends.” Most courses are free and help older adults learn a wide variety of computer basics, digital photography, social media, online job searches, even how to make a website.

What if you have no, or unreliable, service?

A lack of reliable internet is particularly critical for older adults. If the service isn’t fast enough or reliable, a tele-visit to doctors or lawyers or family is not longer possible.

To provide vital internet infrastructure, partnerships between service providers and government is essential. Private expertise and public funding can work together to increase broadband access to under-served areas of the country. An effort by the Federal Communications Commission to subsidize access has hit a roadblock, but it is to be hoped that the effort will go forward in some form. In the meantime, FCC has published a long list of internet service providers offering assistance in response to the pandemic, with links to access the providers.

Some states, municipalities, and service providers have joined in the effort. This past April, to increase broadband access in California, Google furnished students with devices and set up 100,000 Wi-Fi access points, free for three months.

In New York City, even before the pandemic hit, Mayor DeBlasio announced a plan to build fiber optic lines to provide universal broadband in the five boroughs.

Comcast has made Wi-Fi service available across the country, for a limited time, in response to the epidemic.

Private service-providers are also offering special deals to those who qualify.

All in all, so many good things come through the internet. It’s simply essential these days to be electronically connected, to stay healthy, mentally vigorous and informed, and to forge the social bonds that are so vital to well-being.

If you have questions or would like to talk with us about your planning needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are offering online meetings for you and your loved ones.

Our firm is dedicated to helping our clients and their loved ones work through issues and implement sound legal planning to address them. If we can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at (630) 221-1755.