Internet use by over 65s has grown faster than any other age group, having tripled since 2006. The web helps these silver surfers stay connected, save money and combat depression – so why have over five million older individuals still never used the internet, and how can we encourage them to share the benefits?
For twenty-five years, the Internet has allowed individuals to keep in touch with friends and family, obtain the services they need and save money. Data from the Office of National Statistics indicates fifty-three per cent of the four million households without Internet access feel they do not need the service. Yet according to accountant PwC, purchasing products and services online could save the average household £560 a year. Offering everything from the cheapest energy tariffs to the best travel deals and cashback opportunities, those without a connection are at risk of paying a premium.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Gerontology suggests spending time online can ward off depression in retirees, especially among those living alone, by preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness and allowing older individuals to stay connected. Additional research released last month reveals that digital literacy may also delay cognitive decline.
Some older people are limited in their access to technology as a result of financial hardship, but it is now possible to purchase a computer, laptop or tablet quite cheaply and some very competitive broadband deals are available. Many libraries also offer use of their computers free of charge.
Thirty-two per cent of those without an Internet connection cite lack of skills as their reason, with six per cent concerned about privacy or security. Age UK runs computer courses across the country, provides resources on how to stay safe online, and has even developed its own tablet, the Breezie, to simplify technology and make it more relevant and accessible to the elderly. The Doro Liberto 810 smartphone also offers a straightforward menu structure with large tiles, but many still need an incentive to get involved.
Roy Baldock, 86, from Hertford, recently bought his first laptop. His nephew helped get him set up and then he taught himself the rest. He now spends five hours a day online, browsing news websites, watching old films, and contacting friends and family. “It allows me to keep in touch with my son in France: we Skype every week and he sends me photo updates of his girls growing up so I never feel like I’m missing out.”
“It was good fun learning a new skill. I think more people my age should use the Internet; it’s surprisingly easy and I’d be lost without it! I’ve got all my friends online now, and they often send me emails asking for advice.”
But Mr Baldock says that keeping busy and using time productively is important to him. “I’ve worked my whole life and I’m not about to start sitting around playing computer games. When I’m not searching for the best money saving deals, I make money online by writing articles and giving my opinions on the latest products. Sites like Vivatic help stretch my pension a little further.”
Tarquin Hellier, head of the online rewards site Vivatic says, “It’s important that the older generation retain their independence, and the Internet is an excellent way for them to do so. The web has so much to offer to this age group and it’s important that we do everything we can to encourage greater participation.”
The internet unlocks vast opportunities for ‘smart home’ technologies to control heating, lighting and other electronic devices in the home remotely, and provide tele-health facilities to help seniors maintain their independence and live in their own homes for longer.
We have a responsibility to provide support to our families and loved ones so that they can feel confident online – why not share your time and knowledge to help others get started?
Cat Gray writes about working from home, money saving tips and technology trends for www.vivatic.com.
Data from Office of National Statistics, August 2014
Resources to help get more silver surfers online
Age UK computer training courses
Citizens Advice Bureau Internet safety factsheets
Facts and Figures (Ofcom 2014)
16-24 year olds spend a whopping 24.2 hours a week on the web; over 65s spend just 9.2 hours.
Two in five over 65s make purchases online, compared with 90% of 25-34 year olds.
Sticklers for habit
56% of those aged 65+ stick to tried and tested websites; three-quarters of the more adventurous 16-24 year olds are willing to try something new.
Confidence is key
Just 22% of over-65s claim to be very confident internet users, compared with 71% of 16-24 year olds.
Only 27.3% of women over 75 have used the internet, vs. 43.7% of men.
17% of internet-savvy over 65s use tablets; triple the number of two years ago
Location location location
Seniors in Tyne and Wear are the least likely in England to be online at just 28%. In Surrey silver surfer levels reach 63%. (Age UK)
Whilst 91% of the 16-24 age group uses social networks, just 13% of over 65s are logging in. (ONS)Last modified: June 11, 2021