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Will 5G put older Americans in a bind? Advocates say it could impact phones & other equipment

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 7:54 PM CST
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5G is expanding and advocates for older Americans worry that it could rendered their older...
5G is expanding and advocates for older Americans worry that it could rendered their older mobile devices useless.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local and national advocates for older Americans are calling for more to be done to alert them about what 5G could do to some cellphones, life-saving medical alert devices, and other digital systems.

Companies like Verizon say 5G is 25 times faster than 4G networks.

But Howard Rodgers, Executive Director of the New Orleans Council on Aging, said it is troubling to learn the negative impact the expansion of 5G could have on some seniors’ devices and as a result their lives.

“We were all concerned about 5G and what was going to happen with airports, but we really didn’t think into what was going to happen to all those seniors who have phones,” said Rodgers. “They’re used to their little flip phones.”

Some seniors have cellphones with much older technology.

Tom Kamber is Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP.

“Many people still have 3G devices and some of those devices will terminate this year without necessarily notifying people officially or successfully and they won’t know and those devices will stop working, so we all have to do a better job communicating to the public around the 5G transition and it hasn’t really happened yet,” said Kamber.

Rodgers sees firsthand how many seniors struggle financially and he says it would be a burden for them to have to upgrade their mobile devices.

“Right now we’re going through the process of helping pay people utility bills with our Power-to-Care Program and we see some of the hardships that a lot of the seniors are having,” said Rodgers.

Medical alert devices could also be impacted.

“Many of them are life-saving devices, we’re not talking about hobby tools here, we’re talking about a personal emergency response button, those necklaces that people wear, the panic pendants, we’re talking about your home burglar alarms, your home fire alarms,” said Kamber.

Also, older GPS systems are a concern.

Kamber recommends doing an inventory of your devices and digital systems.

“Do a scan, look in your garage, look at the phones you’re using, look in your kitchen, look in your car and ask is there anything in this environment, in my home, in my living that is connected to a wireless connection and that might break down if it’s not upgraded,” said Kamber.

Rodgers says more should be done to inform the public.

“The FCC should have notified especially aging organizations, AARP, and other aging organizations about what’s going to happen when we roll out 5G,” he said.

Kamber was asked if the federal government should intervene and give the public more time.

“The federal government has a role to play here and AARP was recommending they issue some kind of policy that would require the companies to slow down on the transition but that did not happen,” Kamber stated.

So, he says they are asking the companies to do so voluntarily.

“It’s not just is there a better technology out there, but it’s also what is this costing people, what kind of benefit does it have for their lives, how are you training especially older adults and other vulnerable populations to use the new technologies?” said Kamber.

Still, he says technology has its place and people should take advantage of it.

“It’s really an opportunity to sit down and say what do I want to be doing next year in my home.”

On Friday the FAA announced it had reached an agreement with Verizon and AT&T related to 5g and airports.

The FAA released the following statement:

“Through continued technical collaboration, the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service. The FAA appreciates the strong communication and collaborative approach with wireless companies, which have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments. The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations. This will enable the wireless providers to safely turn on more towers as they deploy new 5G service in major markets across the United States. The FAA continues to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.”

AARP recommends the following links for information on 3G which some devices rely on:

www.seniorplanet.org/3g

www.seniorplanet.org/event/3g-event

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