Advocating for seniors 'aging in place'

Although I do miss my family and wish they were a little bit closer for more frequent weekend visits than what is becoming a biennial pilgrimage home, there’s still no other city I rather call my second home than Cleveland.

Participating in the recent Age-Friendly Cleveland planning summit at the Benjamin Rose conference center in Cleveland, where the task at hand was to collaboratively “develop a broad set of potential strategies … to help Cleveland become a premier age-friendly city,” reminded me of my aging-in-place parents in Japan.

Of the “eight domains of city life that might influence the health and quality of life of older adults” identified by the global network of cities participating in this movement that was established by the World Health Organization, the “communication and information” domain included “broad public access to computers and the internet” – closely resembling the series of articles we started in the previous issue of the Observer on digital literacy for the senior population.

In mid-2015, Pew Research Center published a study titled “Young Adults Are Most Likely to Use The Internet, but Seniors Show Faster Adoption Rates.” Their accompanying line graph did show semi-annual data point differences were most pronounced year-after-year for the 65 and older age group since year 2000.

However the same adoption rate, or what I consider digital literacy, in mid-2015 when the report was published clearly shows a chasm – compared to 96 percent of adults age 19 to 29 using the internet, only 58 percent of adults age 65 or older did the same.

Listening to the keynote speech at the summit, I learned a new buzz phrase: “Silver Tsunami,” which was referring to the “rise in the median age of the United States workforce” (of course I had to “google it” from my smartphone while the speaker was still talking). I also think this phrase aptly explains countless reports of the global senior population surpassing youth population in the next 5-10 years.

The digital world brought, and keeps bringing, additional means of communication methods to disperse information and cultivate relationships. For example, digital world-based tools are becoming the preferred method due to tangible and intangible cost savings. And although we'd rather meet family and friends in person, the real world often presents obstacles beyond our control where, again, the use of digital world-based tools like video chat (aka Facetime, Skype, etc.) is better than not being able to relate at all. This underscores the reason to tackle this social issue of a digital literacy chasm that may negatively affect the quality of life of seniors in 2016 and beyond.

As I drove home from the summit, I continued to think of my parents aging in place. I’m thankful they are digitally literate as we use the aforementioned tools to keep in touch when obstacles such as distance and life's responsibilities make seeing each other in person challenging. Japan already is age-friendly in many areas so I’m excited that Cleveland, my second home, has the Age-Friendly Cleveland initiative underway!

Readers: If you'd like to share how you use digital world tools, I will share them in future issues. You may reach me by sending an email to the Observer office at editor@wbvobserver.com.

Tak Sato

Technology and Business Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of geek with a heart with the service mark"Hand-holding You in the Digital World" and co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 9:44 AM, 04.19.2016