For many older Americans, the allure of the Information Age is just as strong as it is for teen-age web surfers who chat with friends, research homework questions and play games online. Seniors can find a world of opportunity once they are online — they can make informed investment decisions, check out the latest news from Medicare, communicate with friends and family around the globe, and learn new job skills that will keep them employed or help them re-enter the work force. Unlike teenagers who learn about PC technology at school, however, older Americans have fewer opportunities to acquire the PC literacy and access to technology that can strengthen their creativity, expand their community and enhance their employability. That’s where PC Empowerment grants from Microsoft and the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) fit in.
Microsoft and NCOA are awarding grants of cash, hardware and software to 17 community-based organizations that serve seniors. These grants will support customized programs aimed at improving PC skills and enhancing employment opportunities for disadvantaged seniors. The selected organizations range from a Chinese Community Center in Houston, which teaches data entry to non-English speaking seniors, to a mobile computer center on wheels, used in rural California to bring computer job-skill training to seniors living in outlying areas.
Americans over the age of 60 represent the fastest-growing segment of computer and Internet users, but less than 5 percent of senior households own and use computers. Microsoft and the NCOA have met with government agencies to understand this Administration’s views and concerns about the aging U.S. population and how technology can be a part of the solution. At the government’s request, Microsoft testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in July about how the Internet can empower older Americans.
“Microsoft is committed to helping provide the access and tools necessary for seniors to take full advantage of the Information Age,” said Craig Spiezle, Microsoft’s director of the senior initiative. “The organizations selected for these grants are embracing the opportunity to bring technology access to seniors in their communities; the creativity and ingenuity shown in their proposals are inspiring.”