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AARP Foundation Gets Grant to Help Older Adults Build Digital Skills​

Training will start this spring, thanks to $10 million from Google.org

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Older adults will soon be able to get training to improve their digital skills, thanks to a $10 million grant AARP Foundation has received from Google.org. The training will focus on the skills older adults need to find jobs, get hired and enhance their careers.

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Over the past two years, as many businesses have shifted to remote work, the ability to use the internet well has become essential for workplace success. Many older adults improved their online skills during this period by, for example, learning how to videoconference with their families or order groceries online.

But overall, there still are significant gaps between how adept people ages 50 and older are at using digital tools compared to younger adults. According to a report the Urban Institute released near the end of last year, the digital skills of older workers lag behind those of workers under age 50 in nearly all occupations. The gaps are particularly large among clerical support workers; business and administrative professionals; and legal, social and cultural professionals. Among older Americans, the skills of people of color tend to lag behind those of white people, women tend to have less-advanced skills than men, and rural residents tend to have less-advanced skills than urban dwellers.

Through the grant from Google.org, AARP Foundation aims to address some of these disparities and help 25,000 lower-income older adults — particularly women and people of color — improve their technology skills. Through the Digital Skills Ready@50+ initiative, AARP Foundation, in collaboration with Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP, will provide programs and services that offer training designed to build workplace skills, including how to use online job search and networking tools as well as how to use various types of office productivity software. The funding also will support digital training in tools for starting a business, such as social media marketing, crowdfunding, mobile payment services and graphic design.

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“This transformational grant will enable older adults living with low incomes to obtain the digital confidence and skills they need to increase their long-term financial stability, especially for those who have been most affected by systemic racism and discrimination,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “Offering vulnerable older adults critical technology skills training can further close the digital divide, help build economic security and resilience, and help people live independently as they age.” 

The programs will launch in more than a dozen cities beginning in March 2022 and continue to roll out over the next two years in eight states: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. The training will be conducted through community organizations that will use sessions designed by AARP Foundation and OATS’ Senior Planet instructors. Based on the results of these initial efforts, AARP Foundation plans to create a scalable model to expand the program nationally.

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“By supporting AARP Foundation to implement this new digital skill training program, we hope to help older adults, especially those from vulnerable communities who have not had access to technological resources in the past, plan for their future,” said Kent Walker, who is president for Global Affairs at Google.

Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.