National Nonprofit Launches Easy Census Help For Seniors

A great tool for folks who have sufficient broadband and a great jumping off point for getting seniors who aren’t online more comfortable once they get there…

Millions of seniors who had planned to get help at their local library or senior center filling out their 2020 Census online are now stuck, says Tobey Dichter, the founder of Generations on Line, a national nonprofit that simplifies the Internet for techno-timid seniors. “Certainly not the first of our worries during the pandemic, but we will all suffer the effects of undercounting older adults for a decade to come.” 

Generations on Line, which has trained more than 100,000 older people, is helping seniors get unstuck, providing free help through its new The site gives seniors a safe place to practice and hone the skills they need to enter their Census information with confidence. It includes a three-minute government-sponsored video on privacy, quick training on filling in forms, previews of some of the actual questions, and tips for Internet safety – all in a cheerful, age-respectful digital package that adapts to whatever device is being used, from tablet to desk to smartphone.

Getting more older adults to fill out the Census is critical, as many senior services are funded through the Older Americans Act, and Congress uses Census statistics to apportion resources. For Pennsylvania, it means tens of billions of dollars a year.

“Right now, even going outside to the mailbox to return a form, if they receive one in the mail, or answering a call from a government worker, as some seniors will, is problematic,” said Dichter. “Even before Covid-19, our studies showed that older people are rightly suspicious of scams and inclined not to share their information with strangers. It also revealed that many were unknowing or timid about entering their information on their computer or smartphone. More than half of people over 65 have smartphones,” she said, “but we have found most use them for very limited purposes–calls and texting.” 

Generations on Line also provides basic digital literacy for seniors through its free app “Easy Tablet Help For Seniors” suitable for families or caregivers to download in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for older friends and relatives. Based in Philadelphia, PA, Generations on Line, established in 1999, is an award-winning pioneer in reducing the digital divide.