Access on Wheels: A Mobile Computer Lab Drives Through the Technology Gap
Erin R. Houston, Ph.D.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Shenango Valley Urban League
Facebook: Shenango Valley Urban League
In the 21st century, it is common for households to have a computer, sometimes multiple computers. It is also likely that young boys and girls will formally learn how to use a computer during their elementary school years. This early exposure develops their computer skills and affords them an ease with technology that can later be put to practical use as adults.
While it is likely for households to have computers, it is also likely that many senior citizens have not developed basic computer skills either through practice or training. A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that only 44% of seniors ages 80 and up report using the internet, and just 28% say they have broadband service in the home. The same study also estimates that close to 50% of seniors under the age of 75 say they use social networking sites, as compared to 20% of seniors ages 75 and older. In this day and age of evolving technology, having basic computer skills, such as navigating the internet and using social media and email, will help senior citizens preserve relationships and stay connected to family and friends.
The Shenango Valley Urban League recognized this need and developed a mobile computer lab with resources from a Spectrum Digital Education Grant. The moving lab teaches basic computer skills to senior citizens and creates opportunities for families from tech-deprived homes to access broadband and physical technology. We travel throughout the county with this all-inclusive opportunity. We provide laptops, hotspots, printers and scanners to those in need, and promote the use of broadband and technology in both urban and rural communities. Families take full advantage of the computer lab and use its resources for vital tasks, including conducting job searches, applying for jobs online, and polishing up their resumes. Our younger users use the computer lab to complete homework assignments and work on research papers and projects.
By partnering with senior citizen facilities, churches and schools, the mobile computer lab brings the community together on a vital common interest: technology. As technology continues to evolve and become integral to more of our day-to-day activities, we cannot leave any family members or age groups behind. Having basic computer knowledge increases the comfort level of seniors, helping them get accustomed to incorporating broadband and technology into their lives. It also offers them a way to stay connected with their family and community members and empowers them to maneuver and navigate our world wide web.
Anderson, M & Perrin, A (2017). Technology Use Among Seniors, http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/technology-use-among-seniors/