Using the Internet to Stay Connected
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 our elders, this may not be so simple. Inability to connect remotely with family and friends causes so many to feel even more isolated and lonely, due to the extreme quarantine measures especially 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.
Young family members might like nothing better than to be asked to help an elder learn internet ways and means. Or, here is a collection of some online tutorial sources:
Here is a downloadable educational booklet from the British Broadcasting Company. It has important information on computer security.
Or, the organization Senior Planet is there to “harness technology to change the way we age.” Their programs “help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends.” Most courses are free and help seniors 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?
Two years ago, fifty-eight percent of Americans living in rural settings said that access to high speed internet was a problem. Source: Pew Research Study
This lack of reliable internet is particularly critical for seniors, who have already been cut off from health-care providers and family. Even if some internet access is there, if the service isn’t up to speed, a tele-visit to doctors or lawyers or family is no 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 under the current administration, 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 April, to increase broadband access in California, Google furnished students with devices and set up 100,000 wifi 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 wifi 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 offer online meetings if easier for you and your loved ones. And if you are outside of our service area, please contact an experienced Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified in Elder Law) to assist you.
Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida.