New report says older internet users are less isolated, lonely and feel more in control than non-users.

Report recommends ways to get older people online

Older people who use the internet are more likely to feel in control, and be less isolated and lonely than those that do not, a new report has found.

‘Nudge or Compel?: Can behavioural economics tackle the digital exclusion of older people?,’ has recommended a number of ways to get older people online and tackle digital exclusion.

Published by the International Longevity Centre – UK, a leading think tank on longevity and demographic change, the report said that over 7.5 million adults had never used the internet, and the majority of non-users were older, had disabilities or were in the lowest social classes.

The report highlighted new analysis of data from the ‘English Longitudinal Study of Ageing’ on the behavioural traits that accompanied internet usage among older people. It showed that people who said they used the internet, tended to report feeling more in control of various aspects of their lives, and were also more likely to say they ‘hardly ever or never’ felt isolated, the same went with feeling lonely. While those that said they did not use the internet were more likely to say they ‘often’ felt isolated from others.

Those that did not own a computer were also more likely to feel they were unable to learn a new skill, while those that did were more likely to agree they could.

The report has recommended that service providers guarantee individuals can return to a paper service if the online experience does not work out for them, as one of the barriers to getting people online is the fear of something going wrong, it said.

Other recommendations included government and the private sector investing more in adult learning and supporting local digital champions to make the case at a community level for the use of new technology. The technology sector should also place more emphasis on co-design, it said.

The report has also called on service providers to find ways of attracting older customers by offering discounted installation and connection deals, and initial periods of free internet access.  And recommended companies use imagery of both younger and older people when advertising technology and opportunities to learn technology.

Launching the report, Baroness Sally Greengross said: “Technology plays an increasingly important part in our society yet millions of older people are still not online. This report highlights a strong association between being offline and isolation, loneliness and a perception of not being in control. As more and more private and public services are made available exclusively online, there is a risk of greater exclusion. Technology is not just for younger people, it is for all of us. Yet as we move services online, “Digital by Default” must play a role in nudging those people who are offline towards the internet.”

Annika Small, chief executive at Nominet Trust, which supported the report, said: “Digital technology can play a key role in creating strong networks for people in later life that will help reduce isolation and loneliness. It is critical that we find ways to motivate older people to get online by demonstrating how the internet can strengthen vital social ties that will help them to remain active and engaged. This, in turn, can delay and prevent some of the negative effects of ageing that many people currently experience.”

Further information:

The report is available on the International Longevity Centre – UK website.

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