What’s So Great About the Internet? Why American Seniors are Finally Starting to Get Online


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Over the course of the last two decades, the internet has become such an important part of modern life that we wonder how we ever existed without it. Looking for a bite to eat? Just press a few buttons and get connected with your favorite restaurant’s menu. Wondering how many miles you get to a gallon? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are so many websites available for perusal — on such a dizzyingly vast array of topics — that many senior citizens hesitate to access the internet at all.

Only about 40 percent of American senior citizens report using the internet on a regular basis: despite extensive outreach programs by major software manufacturers, seniors may not feel comfortable interacting with unfamiliar technology. Fully 97 percent of Americans under 30 make use of the internet for both business and personal communication, and purchase more than $300 billion in products and services online every year.

As American seniors continue to opt out of participation in the new digital economy, retailers are scrambling to bridge the gap. In an age of identity theft and widespread digital fraud, many seniors are understandably reluctant to make purchases online and to maintain a presence on social media. They would rather buy cell phone accessories in person than give their credit card information to an online store, or may simply not realize that they can buy discounted merchandise online.

Another reason that American seniors hesitate to access the internet is that the vocabulary of technology can be unfamiliar and worrisome: although younger internet users are comfortable discussing the difference between network ethernet cable systems, older adults may find themselves wondering what all the fuss is about. Do I need to upgrade my Cat5e cables, or can I leave my existing highspeed HDMI cables in place? Older users consistently report that learning to use the internet — and to navigate the new landscape of technical terminology — is not what they are interested in.

Basically, the term “wifi” stands for “wireless fidelity,” and is a term associated with internet service that does not require a direct connection to a modem. Newer laptops, tablets, and cell phones include a wireless adapter, which works to decode the signals that are contained in the radio waves. Newer 500 ft ethernet cables, for example, are connected to a laptop or other electronic device and allows computers to access the internet without the delays that are sometimes associated with wireless internet connections.

Although the terminology can be confusing, Cat 5e and other ethernet cables are basically made of copper wires that are twisted at varying intervals in order to increase the effectiveness of information transfer through the cables. Cat5e cables are widely used in both commercial and residential internet installations, and are designed to support high speed internet service. In general, Cat5e cables allow internet users to more quickly access the internet, and network professionals can advise new users regarding the most effective way to wire their homes.

Taking the time to learn about new technology can be daunting for a new internet user: sometimes it seems that as soon as we get used to a new product, it is rendered obsolete. Cell phones need to be upgraded every two years, and laptops every two to three years. Understandably, many senior citizens are overwhelmed by the Information Age. How do I choose a cell phone? What is the difference between different brands of laptop computers and tablets? What is a tablet used for? When should I replace my Cat5e cables and USB cables?

Younger users are more than happy to help their parents or grandparents learn to video chat and to use social media, and many American seniors are becoming increasingly curious about what the internet has to offer. Wondering what to look up first? The entire world is at your fingertips: let’s learn something new together.

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