Seniors isolated by digital divide

Seniors isolated by digital divide

The internet could enrich the lives of older Australians, but many believe that getting online is too complicated, the latest report released by the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre has found.

There was increasing awareness that the internet could provide the convenience of email, health advice, online shopping, bill-paying, banking and keeping in touch with family, friends, and community news; but research also showed many were deterred by concerns such as the cost of buying a computer and Internet or broadband connection, a lack of knowledge and skills, confusion about technology, worries about computer security and access to computers – particularly in regional areas.

The study “Older Australians and the Internet: Bridging the Digital Divide” was undertaken by Queensland University of Technology researcher Dr Sandra Haukka for National Seniors.

“Older people with low internet skills are unable to conduct business or access important services over the web,” said Peter Matwijiw, general manager of policy and research at National Seniors. “They can be isolated from their community and family at a time in their lives when feeling connected is very important,” Matwijiw said. “In short, they are often on the wrong side of ‘the digital divide’.”

Bridging that divide was an important national challenge, given the rapidly ageing population, rising health care costs and later retirement ages, the report said. It also called for urgent action to tailor current online technologies to help break down barriers and assist older Australians gain the skills and confidence they need to use the internet.

Read the report here