Silver surfers

Technology starts to help Jamaica's senior community improve health, safety and communication.

Jamaica’s senior citizens community amounted to 545,088 people, 20.2% of the population according to the country’s last census carried out in 2011. Technology is starting to help to improve the lives of the country’s senior community as smart devices bring benefits to monitoring their health, safety and communication conditions but barriers remain.

A senior strategist at a regional telecommunications firm explained, “The 60+ age group makes up about 10% of the Jamaican population. Many of the younger generations want to emigrate to the US or Europe so the elderly are left alone, this creates a huge opportunity for technology that brings people together.”

The telecommunications executive saw the main opportunities in accident alerts, healthcare, transportation and banking, “This group is more susceptible to accidents and illnesses so healthcare is important and digital tools can really make banking easier. Transportation is also adopting more and more technology based on smartphones. These digital tools and services could really improve the lives of the elderly, if they could access them.”

“These digital tools and services could really improve the lives of the elderly, if they could access them.”

Telecommunications executive, Jamaica

Jamaica has experienced a significant improvement in internet availability and speed, enhancing mobile connections and smartphone availability. The industry executive believed that mobile and internet infrastructure in Jamaica was sufficient but was too expensive, “The ICT backbone from fibre to cell towers is there, Jamaica even has two data centres, the main issue preventing an explosion of silver surfers is the cost, even basic internet access is too expensive.” 

Another challenge is the limited access to and compatibility of smart devices. A telecommunications executive in Jamaica reported, “One of the biggest barriers is access and accessibility to technology for this age group. They may not be able to afford smartphones, in fact, most of that age group have standard feature phones and if they have a smartphone they won’t use the smart features.”

The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (“CCRP”) said that elder people need to get used to technology prior to mastering it. The CCRP also emphasised that a better knowledge of Internet of Things, Active Assisted Living and artificial intelligence tools can support independent living for the elderly. The strategist confirmed that education was a significant barrier, “On a scale of 1 to 10, the tech knowledge of this age group is still 1, maybe 2. Most of that generation don’t have a university education and have never really used any technology before.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10 the tech knowledge of this age group is still 1, maybe 2.”

Senior strategist, regional telecommunications company

The Consumer Affairs Commission of Jamaica encouraged the government to offer support to elder citizens in the use of technology, particularly after financial institutions increased the contactless services after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is easier said than done though, as the strategist recalled, “Three or four years ago, the government ran a programme to improve computer literacy but there wasn’t a very good take up. First you need to demonstrate the benefits that technology can give them, then incentivise them to try it and finally you support their efforts with educational tools.”

 

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