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We are leaving older adults out of the digital world – TechCrunch

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May is national Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme is Connect, Create, Contribute. One area in particular threatens to prevent older adults from making those connections: the digital divide.

Nationally, one-third of adults ages 65 and older say they’ve never used the internet, and half don’t have internet access at home. Of those who do use the internet, nearly half say they need someone else’s help to set up or use a new digital device. Even in San Francisco – the home of technology giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Google – 40% of older adults do not have basic digital literacy skills, and of those, more than half do not use the internet at all.

Mastering digital technology has become a key component of what it means to fully participate in society. If we do not provide technology access and training to older adults, we shut them out from society, worsening an already worrisome trend of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

As a researcher working directly with isolated older adults to provide low-cost internet, tablets, and digital training through the Tech Allies program, led by the non-profit Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, I regularly hear this sentiment from seniors.

I visit Tech Allies participants – whose ages range from 62 to 98 – both before and after their eight weeks of one-on-one technology training. We talk about their experiences with and perspectives on technology today. In reflecting on why he and other older adults would want to learn to use the internet, one elder told me, “We feel like we’re standing outside a building that we have no access to.”

Another woman shared that because she doesn’t have internet access or know how to use technology, she feels, “I’m just not part of this world anymore. In certain facets of society, I just can’t join…. Some [things] just are not possible if you are not in the flow of the internet.”

In contrast to concerns about technology use increasing isolation among younger populations, the communication and connection possible online can be especially valuable for older adults who are homebound, live far away from family, or have lost the loved ones they relied on for social support in their younger years. Elders can use online tools to connect with friends and family via messaging platforms, video chat, and social media even if they can no longer physically visit them.

Older adults can find online support groups for people who share their medical conditions. And they can engage with the outside world through news, blogs, streaming platforms, and email, even if they are no longer able to move about as easily as they once could. As one elder told me, “I can’t really move that easily without a caretaker and I only have her a few hours a day so [the tablet] … has been a great companion for me and it gets me connected with other people.”

Image courtesy of Getty Images

For older adults in particular, the risks associated with social isolation are profound. Loneliness among older adults has been associated with depressioncardiovascular disease,functional decline, and death. Technology can serve as an important tool to help reduce these risks, but only if we provide older adults with the skills they need to access our digital world.

But we can close this gap. Our research shows that Tech Allies measurably improves older adults’ use of technology and confidence in key digital skills. Programs like this, which embed technology training in existing community-based organizations, should be expanded, with increased funding prioritized at local, state, and federal levels and with greater involvement of technology companies and investors. If we spent even a fraction of the $8 billion invested in digital health companies alone last year on tailoring these tools for older adults, we could drastically expand usability, training, and access to broadband and devices.

Support from technology companies could take many forms. Beyond expanding device donation programs, technology companies should design devices specifically for older adults (when your hand is shaky, swiping can be tough…) and should have tech support call lines tailored to older adults less familiar with the internet (cache and cookies and clouds, oh my!).

Furthermore, broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T should streamline the enrollment process for their affordable internet programs and expand eligibility. Partnerships between service providers and community-based organizations focused on older adults will be key in ensuring that these efforts actually meet the needs of older adults.

To be sure, many older adults also express a lack of interest in technology. For some, this reflects a true lack of desire to use digital tools. But for others it reflects an underlying fear of technology and lack of skills. Appropriate training can help to quell those fears and generate interest. In particular, great care must be paid to online safety training. Older adults are more likely to fall victim to online scams, putting their personal information at risk, but with tailored digital literacy training, they can learn to navigate the internet safely and securely.

The importance of digital inclusion is not going to disappear with the generational changes of the coming decades. Technology is continuously evolving, and with each new digital innovation come challenges for even younger adults to adapt.

With greater investment in providing accessible devices, broadband, and digital training, technology has the potential to become a powerful tool for reducing loneliness among older adults, empowering them to connect, create, and contribute online. As one elder put it, “It’s time to catch up, you know, and join the world.”

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Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch is the do-all fitness tracker

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The Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch will cost you approximately $400 – let’s talk about why. The Garmin Venu 2 does everything the original Venu does, but ALSO adds an array of new features. This watch works with GPS (and GLONASS, GALILEO), heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, ambient light sensor, pulse ox blood oxygen saturation monitor, and a battery time of up to 10 days in smartwatch mode. It has a touchscreen, color display, and is able to connect to Android and iOS devices.

In addition to the features included in the original Venu, this device is available in two distinct sizes and multiple colors. This version has “enhanced battery life” with both rapid recharging and a battery saver mode – which for the Venu 2 means it’ll have up to 11 days of up-time, and the 2S rings in at 10 days (both in smartwatch mode).

This series also has new HIIT workouts with on-screen animations, as well as activity profiles for HIIT, hiking, bouldering, and indoor climbing. Venu 2 works with Health Snapshot to record and share health stats, and has a “Fitness age” system.

With the fitness age system, the watch “estimates the body’s age” given activity, resting heart rate, chronological age, and either body fat percentage (if you’ve got a Garmin Index scale) or BMI. The Venu 2 also adds new sleep score and insights with Firtbeat Analytics. Below you’ll see a presentation video from Garmin about this new Garmin Venu 2 series.

The Garmin Venu 2 has a 45mm watch case and a 22mm band. The Garmin Venu 2S has a 40mm watch case and an 18mm band. The bands work with “industry-standard quick release” silicone band connections, and the watch has a stainless steel bezel.

The display is an AMOLED touchscreen panel protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. If you’re looking at the Venu 2S, you’ll have a 1.1-inch diameter display with 360 x 360 pixels. The Venu 2 has a 1.3-inch diameter display with 416 x 416 pixels. Both have 5 ATM water ratings, meaning they’re able to withstand pressure equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. That means you’ll be protected against splashes, showers, diving, snorkeling, swimming, and your basic rain and snow.

Both the Garmin Venu 2 and Garmin Venu 2S will cost you approximately $400 USD. These watches were made available for purchase through Garmin (dot com) starting this week.

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iOS 15 features could include Apple’s big notification upgrade

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Apple’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, its upcoming major software refreshes for iPhone and iPad, will include a significant rework of how notifications are handled, according to a new report, potentially addressing a growing criticism of alert overload on mobile devices. The two new OSes – one designed for phones, the other for tablets, after Apple opted to cleft development in two – are expected to be previewed at WWDC 2021, the company’s annual developer event in early June.

Notifications and the Lock Screen in general has increasingly become a point of contention for iOS and iPadOS users. In the early days of the iPhone platform, Apple’s treatment of each notification as a separate block made sense; more recently, however, with a dramatic uptick in the number of apps and services wanting to push out their respective alerts to users, the Lock Screen has arguably become unruly and it’s easy to potentially miss a notification.

Apple has finessed the UI over the years, including grouping notifications by app, and there are settings which can control whether software can show a full notification or a more fleeting one. All the same, chatter of a revamp has been around for some time, and it seems iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will be when it lands.

Users will be able to set different notification preferences, based on their current status, sources tell Bloomberg. That could include whether their iPhone or iPad makes a noise. Unlike the current, fairly blunt “Do Not Disturb” or driving modes – the latter which can automatically activate when the iPhone is in CarPlay mode in a vehicle – there’ll be multiple settings supposedly accessed via a new menu.

For example, users could set that they’re working, sleeping, driving, or a custom category – such as exercising – with a different set of notification preferences for each. That menu will be accessible from the new Lock Screen as well as in the Control Center. Automatic message replies, as are currently supported in driving mode, will also be supported for each status.

For iPadOS 15 specifically, there’ll be new Home Screen options. The widgets that Apple added to iOS 14 last year, which can be intermingled with regular icons on the Home Screen, will be expanded to iPadOS 15 it’s suggested. Currently, iPad widgets are corralled into a separate pane.

Both iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will also expand Apple’s focus on privacy, the sources say. There’ll be a new menu which lists all of the personal data being collected and shared by apps, in part of an attempt to make more clear what information may be gathered in the background. It follows new rules Apple has applied to developers around disclosing data sharing policies and more.

Finally, there are said to be changes afoot to iMessage, Apple’s messaging platform. Though possibly not arriving in time for WWDC 2021, the updates are believed to be with a mind to making iMessage more of a social network than it is now, though exactly how that would operate is unclear at this stage.

WWDC 2021 kicks off on June 7, and – like last year – will be held entirely online rather than as an in-person event. Registration is open now, and unlike in previous years will be free and uncapped in number to developers.

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AppleCare+ plans can now be extended for longer than 36 months

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Anytime someone buys a new Apple product such as an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac, they often buy the AppleCare+ extended warranty. That warranty covers the devices for all manner of accidental breakage and other issues. Apple recently announced that in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US, owners who originally purchased AppleCare+ can renew their coverage for longer than was previously allowed.

Users are required to purchase their new coverage within 30 days of the date of their original coverage ending. Users who pay monthly or annually for AppleCare+ don’t need to take any action to renew their plans. Plan coverage can be continued beyond 24 or 36 months on a monthly or annual basis until the user cancels the coverage.

Apple does note that users who choose to continue their coverage will be subject to the current AppleCare+ terms and conditions. Buyers in China who purchased 24 months of coverage upfront will be able to continue coverage on an annual basis when their 24-month initial period is over. Those who paid annually will renew annually each year until they cancel.

Users in China can renew within 30 days of the end date of their current coverage. The coverage end date can be found in “settings – general – about” where they can tap the AppleCare+ Coverage Available option and follow instructions to register. Users can follow the “settings – general – about” path and then tap the name of their AppleCare plan to see when their coverage expires.

Coverage can also be verified on the mysupport.apple.com website. Expiration dates are also noted in the Proof of Coverage or Plan Confirmation message sent when the AppleCare+ plan was initially purchased. Apple outlined the steps on its support page with an updated document published on April 20.

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