ELDER MUSIC: Do the Reggay
A READER'S STORY: The World Is Such A Noisy Place

27 Percent of Elder Americans are NOT Online

There was barely a world wide web at all when I got my first computer in the late 1980s. No banks, no stores, no YouTube, not even any advertising and the phrase “social media” was years from being invented.

But among the few offerings were photographs of the Moscow subway stations. I can't find that original website now (with images that took several minutes to load on the dial-up connection we all used back then) but if you've never seen how beautiful those stations are, take a look here.

Later, I got lucky in terms being prepared for our digital future. A friend had convinced CBS News to give her a couple of millions dollars to build a website for the 1996 presidential election and she hired me as managing editor.

None of us knew how to build a website yet and there were no other news websites to help us get started. The closest was that CNN was building their first website too and we freely stole ideas from each others' sites.

Meanwhile, over the next year, our engineers, coders, graphics artists and the rest of us, made mistakes but we learned from one another how websites work and we even launched on time. Successfully too.

That was almost 25 years years ago and the web has since become essential to our daily lives. Personally, I bank by mail, pay bills, get automatic reminders of when they are due. Between in-person visits, all my communication with doctors and nurses is via the internet. The pharmacy let's me know when prescriptions are due for refill.

A growing number of physical stores no longer take cash for purchases and whether we like it or not – we won't be able to stop it – banks, employers and many others are checking our online presence before doing business with or hiring us.

Plus, many people work from home which is not possible without the internet, and for all of us, there is hardly a question known to humankind the web cannot answer.

(Please don't take that as a challenge.)

My point is that even if we are not quite there yet, more and more personal and other important business is done only online and that trend will do nothing but grow leaving old people behind and in some cases, unable to get ordinary, daily business done.

Plus, only a couple of weeks ago did I realize I haven't received a yellow pages book in several years. How can anyone, without access to the internet, find a store or service they need without the web?

Recently, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of who is not online, using several criteria, including age.

”For instance, seniors are much more likely than younger adults to say they never go online,” reports Pew. “Although the share of non-internet users ages 65 and older has decreased by 7 percentage points since 2018, 27% still do not use the internet, compared with fewer than 10% of adults under the age of 65.”

I was amused to see that no one between the ages of 18-29 is not online which helps convince me of my contention that babies are now born clutching a tiny, little cell phone in one hand.


Those numbers tell us that more than one-quarter of old people in the U.S. have no access to what is fast becoming an essential tool – right up there with things like electricity, running water, transportation, etc.

I can think of reasons elders are not online. Some are too ill to use a computer. Others can't afford one. Old people are more likely to live in rural areas where internet reception is still sketchy.

If you've been online a long time, you may not recall how intimidating the web is to use when you know nothing about it. So many families live hundreds and even thousands miles apart these days that elder family members often have no one nearby to help them learn.

And just because we old people are old people, a whole bunch of us will tell you something like, “I've lived 75 years without the internet; I don't see any reason to change that.”

The local senior center holds regularly-scheduled, free computer classes as do some libraries around the country but we're not doing enough. Twenty-seven percent of the fastest growing age group is being left out the internet age and we should change that.


Bet you haven't seen a "white pages" phone book in a while either.

Ronni--They won't do you any more good than they do me, but I'd be happy to send you yellow pages. We get at least three each year, delivered to our front porch, of which two go into the recycle bin. My husband keeps one, but it is easier to go online to find a number, for me.

It threw me for a second when you mentioned babies' clutching cell phones in context of the internet. Although my 12-year-old phone is a smartphone (Treo), I don't use it for the internet - don't even subscribe to the data service for it.

As to computers, having used main-frame computers as early as 1959, they've never caused me any anxiety - except - when it comes to security. My blog has always been closed to search engines, for instance. It amazes me that so many bloggers keep their blogs accessible through search engines. (Of course, I always welcome Ronni's friends!)

Interesting post today. Thank You, as always.
My relationship with computers came on quickly in the early 1980's by virtue of my becoming employed by Texas Instruments in 1981. Then they had dumb terminals to begin with but in 1982 the first PC's showed up and I was forced to learn how to use them. I was a Spanish Literature major who somehow slipped through the screening process and they hired me although almost everybody else had technical degrees, mostly Electrical Engineers. So I was in an environment that pulled me along in terms of mastering the use of computers in my daily life. Ironically, I had zero talent as a handyman or mechanic and I have always had to farm out home and auto repairs, but amazingly, I am pretty good with computers and since 1982 I have humming along, even doing many of my own repairs, rarely needing to call a "help line". But, I cannot, for the life of me, fix a leaky faucet! Go figure.

Interesting stuff. My first contact with a computer was a gigantic mainframe in college in the 60's. You had to write your own program and punch your own cards. It was mostly number crunching. I got my first home computer at a little shop who "built" it to order for me. My newest cell phone is does all that and more.

We still get yellow pages delivered to our doors here in SE Washington, maybe because it is rural.

My first contact with computers was the IBM 34. 80s. Kept up, or close to, ever since. Changed my accounting world. My first home office PC was $2500, a staggering amount, 1990 or thereabouts.

I continue to be shocked at the seniors in my building who are proud they don't have internet or brag about "staying far away from that computer stuff that's watching everyone all the time, no thank you." Well yes. It gets complex for many as their adult children order for them on line or pay for their groceries and then cheques and cash have to be exchanged, etc. and tax returns filed for them on line and exhausting trips to bank for bank balances and statements.

The world has left them behind.


I've been using my smart phone as a computer for years now. I use it more for internet than for phone service.

At first, even my friends were a bit surprised that I could do that. They were always saying things like, "I'll have to check that on my computer when I get home." Check it now, on your phone.

I still know people who don't get their email on their smart phone. Drives me crazy when they say something like, "I only check my computer once a day for email."

Two of my close, non-internet-using friends have died. That's probably how that 27% figure will decrease.

Same here decody. I was recently in a meeting and watched two women struggle with their laptops while we breezed along with our phones. I see refusal to use online services as the main reason for seniors.

This one takes me back, too, Ronni! I helped launch the first job board in Houston (1997). We were in business for more than a year before we had a search engine. Prior to that, if you wanted to look at, say, Chemical Engineer resumes, I provided you with a list. :)

I had to disconnect FAX lines in businesses (Exxon, Continental Airlines, Shell!) to demo the site. (Told them not to worry--all their faxes would be "IN MEMORY" and they wouldn't lose any. YEAH, RIGHT!)

I was VERY fortunate at 44 to land a job w/2, 33 YO guys who "knew" the Internet (it was the wild west--they didn't know much more than me) so I, like you, was able to watch, absorb and grow. After a point, I (ME!) became the 'go-to' guy among family and friends whenever someone needed Internet help. Imagine that!

Ahhhh! I can still hear that squeaky, plaintive screaming of the Internect connecting over phone lines.

And, of course, all of us that have commented on today’s blog are at least partly technology aware.
I do have one acquaintance who will have nothing to do with computers of any kind. She still receives paper bills, bank statements, etc. And she mails her payments by cheque. I think in Canada until the last non techie person passes, the paper options will remain in place. Downside is those folks may have to pay extra fees as a result of their choice to remain unconnected.

Okay, it's a love-hate thing here. Rural "sketchy" connection, yes. I loved and felt comfortable with my googling, when bingo, the format changed overnight (I admit to ignoring things that looked like warnings). Now adds are whizzing by on the right, and the search engine has become very stupid. Getting computer help is problematic and, if I go to a computer whiz, expensive. Plus, computer whizzes tell me WAY more than I want to know.
The phone thing, no. I have never been a screen person, with the exception of movies, and feel impatient when others get them out to check or look up stuff. Plus they don't work where I live.
What do I love? Searching youtubes of favorite artists, happenings, New York Times news occasionally, book info, e-mail. I used to love photo-shop, tho no longer have it. Checking the weather. Looking up images, recipes, how to fix this and that. Sending pictures to friends. My one friend who doesn't have a computer has lots of kids who do.

I worked in printing/publishing and we were early adopters of the first word processors. Then on to computers. The technology was revolutionary for the industry.

The first computer in my home was the Atari we gave my son for his 12th birthday (1980). At some point I got a home computer and had a lot of fun with bulletin boards and chat rooms. When my son went off to college, we stayed in touch by playing EverQuest together on line. By then I was working for an association that used a central computer with dumb terminals for everyone. I had to lobby for PC so I could do the sort of publishing work I needed to do. (I loved the black on white displays of Apples, but needed to be compatible with the majority of my suppliers.)

Meantime, my son remained infatuated with computers from Day One and has built them, repaired them, written code and programs for them ever since. He keeps me up to date and running. Nice having free tech support living a mile away!

My introduction to computers was in the early 80's, when I was assigned to vo-tech after 8th grade. Same as Celia, we wrote our own code, and keypunched the cards ourselves. (Much to the dismay of all around me, I still slam on a keyboard like it was a keypunch machine - that's how I learned to type! )

I work in the construction-service industry, and we're moving away from giving the customer paper tickets into emailing them "virtual" tickets the guys key into their phones. If you've had a plumber to your house recently - probably the same deal! It's great because it incorporated billing, payroll, and documentation of field conditions all at the same time. - makes my job much easier.

Many of our older techs (50's and 60's) are refusing to use the new system so far - they swear we are tracking them 24-7 via "imbedding something in their phones." We're not, the program is not, and who has the time to track Maurice going to 7-11 for milk at 9PM? Their trucks do have GPS, but that's a different story, because the trucks stay at the shop, they don't take them home.

We're coming down to the cut-off date of "use it or lose your job," and I'm anxious to see if the Big Boss gives in and lets the elders keep doing paper tickets.

It's the things that are still called "phones" that brought everyone under 65 in the internet world. I hope that's where classes are focusing.

For myself, I greatly prefer to use a laptop, but THAT makes me a fossil.

I go frequently for blood work at my local lab. They have gone over to complete self check-in via a small computer screen. I use computers and systems on a daily basis as I still am working at 70 years old. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched someone come into the office and be stunned by this type of check in. If I am not called in, I try and assist the person but I see the frustration and I confusion on their faces. They can no longer just go up to the window and sign in. I feel there should be an option but they just direct them to that screen.

I tried to teach my mother how to use email about 15 years ago. Sh couldn’t even figure out how to make the mouse move the cursor around the screen. She’s 98 now, and she wants a cell phone. Not going to happen! I’ve got a life size picture of her tapping on the wrong thing and a porn site appearing on the phone. That phone would be in the trash bin so fast your head would spin😂

I used my first computer when I visited my daughter and her husband shortly after they were married. They taught me how to play a game on their computer to entertain myself while they were at work. That must have been in the early time of the first home computers. A few years later my then son-in-law bought a used computer for me and I had to teach myself how to use it. (They lived in another state by then). It was definitely a hard learning process, but I finally did okay. This must have been at least 27 years ago and I do everything on the computer now. I can no longer get out to shop so I buy what I need on the Internet and research the ratings before doing so on major purchases.
The computer is my lifeline to the outside world and I can't imagine doing without it.

I can't use a smartphone due to my hearing loss. When cc catches up with phones with larger keyboards I will be the first to buy one. But now my arthritic fingers have trouble typing on a standard keyboard so I am afraid that texting on a tiny one would be out of the question.

I wish I was mobile enough to get in a car and drive from coast to coast visiting all of my friends and relatives who have moved away. But I can't. I no longer have a car or strength to do much traveling. Enter the Internet.
Through social media sites like Facebook, I can "visit" with all my peeps every day. I can see their homes, their grand kids, take part in their celebrations, laugh at their jokes and cry with them when they are sad. The internet is made for seniors. We need to get more people connected.

I've used a computer for about 25 years but have a pure hate-hate relationship with my cellphone. The screen and buttons are too small for easy use, and for some reason the d*** thing has "dropped" my email connection. I know I need to take it to the phone store, but keep putting it off. I don't look forward to a 20-something rattling off incomprehensible instructions while, hopefully, fixing it--but also trying to sell me a wildly expensive new instrument that I won't understand! Bah, humbug!

I use social media but sparingly. With good reason, I think, I'm not convinced that my personal information is safe with FB, et. al.

I've always wanted to stay current. I've taken computer classes etc. Now my laptop collects dust. My cell phone is my major connection to internet etc. It does everything I need. One downside of just using my cell is the $ Cost for Internet etc.

My 76-year old mother-in-law only uses their desktop computer to play solitaire. They don't use apps or the internet on their phones. I think it's because they don't know how to type! They still write and mail checks, buy and mail greeting cards, and prefer to communicate by phone. They live in an insular community with no apparent desire to venture beyond in person or in their imaginations. I can't help thinking how much they miss out on; i.e., video chats with us, our kids, and our grandkids; watching movies on Netflix; staying connected with Facebook; reading blogs like this one. It's their life and they don't seem to be bothered by it, so why should I mind?

Question: Is that 27% of all adults or 27% of the 10% of adults who are not online? That’s a big difference.

Memory: in 1982 I went to work at a university in an academic department that taught end-user computer useage (not programming). I was shown the computer lab which I was expected to staff and supervise. I was quick to explain that I had no knowledge of computers and was told, “Don’t worry; you won’t need to.” Of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. I’m sorry to say, that in the nine years since I retired, I’ve lost ground.

I’m amazed at how adaptable humans are, however. I bought my first smart device nine years ago, an e-reader, and within a year, an iPad. Shortly after learning how to navigate by touch rather than with a mouse, I found myself poking frantically at my PC screen and wondering why it didn’t respond!

So many good comments here. Bruce, Salinda, and others sharing deep feelings of what the Internet has meant to them, I can relate and it would be a big loss to not have connectivity. I have similar stories to others here, but won't repeat what's already been well said.

I will just say that if you're having difficulty and don't know where to turn for help with broken or baffling technology, look for a trusted friend or relative with a teenage son who has a good heart and patience. They can be worth their weight in gold.

I still receive phone books and a couple yellow pages books, but fewer listings, so less helpful. Internet search less fair than when I first used years ago in my experience. Longtime quality businesses are left out which they have explained to me has to do with payments required when I inquired as to why their name didn’t come up in lists of companies.

Anyone who thinks if network neutrality isn’t preserved net speeds, access, won’t be exploited is living in a fantasy world.

As for my entering the computer world.... A friend grumbled her son had given her his old computer and she was going to throw it in trash as she didn’t like it — probably was late ‘80s or ‘90’s. I said I’ll take it! Since I wasn’t on the net all I ever did was use some of the disks and play some games occasionally. When I visited my Dtr, her husband who was a contract Programmer showed me how to play solitaire on their personal computer, but that’s all. Meanwhile my Dtr took a job testing programs. She helped me set up an email account though I couldn’t really use it for several years until I got a computer and internet connection.

My friend who wanted new tech stuff as quickly as came out was concerned I’d get behind, but I didn’t want to be shelling out a couple thousand dollars every two years when it appeared the device I just bought would be outdated. At work I was suddenly told I needed to take some sort of test on a computer there and would be inputting data regularly into the computer — no intro, no training, nothing — so I struggled with a mouse, learning to move cursor — took me forever. Coincidentally, I changed employer so had no further need for work-related computer use.

A few years later I decided computer world a bit more stable and was preparing to buy one. My son surprised me by giving me his wife’s old desktop when she bought a new computer. Wanting to learn operations for myself and to entice my increasingly less active unwell husband into using it as an outlet since he had said he didn’t want one, I bagan my odyssey of truly learning to use a computer and becoming acquainted with Internet search. I spent many hours troubleshooting with “help” in India operational tech problems of all kinds, some of which were probably due to my own lack of skills. My son continued to help me as best he could from states away as did my Dtr.

About this time I encountered “blogs” and TGB — rec’d support and encouragement, accidentally launched my own blog. My pptn on social sites restricted by me partly due to how they’re administered. My current additional tech device possession and usage is limited by my choice (no smart phone) — only what I consider cost effective and convenient for me. May acquiesce to getting smart phone in future but my landline & cell for emergency is all I want — have kept landline since 911 still most efficient I.D. for 50% of country, I understand. Delight in my iPadMini for portability and other with a backup,ebook to read if bored when out.

I still consider tech companies, businesses, Govt lax in focus and investment in security which might be one reason some non-users are reluctant to become internet users.

Uh oh, I feel old. I'm tethered to my laptop, but barely use my phone. It's too hard to see, and I am NOT reaching for my glasses every time I pull out my phone. It is useful, I admit, to keep in touch with my kids who don't do email much anymore. It's mostly texting (which, btw, I hate ... I'd rather hear a voice!).

I'll bet a large percentage of those 27% who don't use the internet don't know how to type. It wasn't required when I went to school and guys never took that class. My brother gets frustrated with the hen-and-peck approach and therefore won't buy a computer. Me, I live on mine.

Like many (most?) women my age, I was introduced to computers by my jobs and by my husband. I went through the time of keypunching cards and turning them in to be run, then picking up my printout--seeing my typo, and having to start again. Our first home computer was a Kaypro, in the 1970s, I think. My husband was such a great computer user, he used to help his mother via long distance phone when, at the age of 80+, she would call for computer advice. She learned to use a computer with instruction from her children. She was inspired by the necessities of leading organizations and a political ward that required putting out mailings and quick communication.

I want to note that young girls also can be good helpers for elders getting introduced to computers.

To Darlene and others who complain that the phone "keyboard" is too small... it is! About six months ago, my beloved flip phone died... . I want the security of a phone in my pocket and while flips are still available, I breathed deeply and bought a smart phone. The amazing thing is.. I don't have to type on it... EVER! The voice recognition built in is amazingly good... and it also types out voice mail messages. Yes there are some bloopers but I make as many typing errors... and I've been practicing typing for 60 years. You say "Siri (or Alexa... or....) mail daughter (who is in your contacts) hi honey, see you for dinner at six. send. and an email goes out. Or you can say "Siri text son how'd the interview go? send". You must say "period" or "question mark" which sounds daffy but it works. You can also say:"Siri, how much is 24.6 times 19" and she will tell you four hundred sixty seven point four and print it on the screen also.

My grandmother, who was the early adopter of her day, would remark on seeing new inventions... "a meena-electra"... an electric thing. She would not believe what those meena-electra gizmos do today!

While I worked peripherally with mainframes back when, I didn't have any interaction with PC's until the 1990's. I got one for home in 1998, sometime after we started using them at work. I currently use a laptop.

I still like my flip phone. There are people who work in the hard sciences who do not use smart phones because they don't wish to be bothered.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. In this case, that means that if someone is happy with their level of involvement with technology, even if that is none (zero), then let them be.

Good philosophy, Stephanie. Right on! I have a desktop and a laptop; but, subscribing to a data service for my smart phone would be nearly $400/year more. Since I frequently don't even know where my cell phone is, it wouldn't occur to me to use it to go online, anyway. (Verizon told me, when I last asked, that I average 11 minutes on my phone each month. I not only don't use it for internet, but don't much use it at all. I am phone-phobic!) OTOH, my husband is like a teenager in staring at his phone for hours each day!

BTW: As an engineer who has been retired for 15 years, now, I keep current on computer stuff through volunteer work that I do, mostly, from home. Since the non-governmental, national organization with which I volunteer changes systems every few years, and since I help administer a few of the systems, I am kept on my toes.

If you have an Apple iPhone ,iPad or computer Apple at the 800 number will ask for your serial number and then walk you thru any problem. It’s been a real help to me!

Knowing how to type doesn’t really apply to your phone. I learned to type many years ago in high school and it was a help with my PC. Now using phone or iPad I use my thumbs. It is just something that comes with practice.

I bought my first iMac in 2000. It was a Blueberry. I am feeling nostalgic. I'm on my third iMac. I prefer the desktop. I got my first cell phone, a Nokia candy bar style, in 2000.

I am surprised at the number of older people I meet who either do not use a computer or do not use a smartphone.

I still prefer email to texts. I text but use it for short conversations. It's hard having so many avenues for communication. I hardly use my landline. The last time I discussed terminating it with the phone company, they gave me a year long discount on my service!

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