Although the number of older people who are digitally connected continues to rise, across the country there are still around 5 million people over the age of 55 who are not online. And while factors such as income and levels of education play a part, age is one of the biggest indicators of who is digitally excluded.
Older people often face challenges and barriers when it comes to using digital technology, but there are significant benefits to being digitally engaged:
- Social connection: Digital technology can provide older individuals with the means to connect with friends and family which can have a positive impact on wellbeing. Social isolation is a significant concern for many older people, and digital tools can help alleviate this by facilitating video calls and online messaging.
- Independence: Using digital technology for online shopping can be a valuable resource for older people, especially those with limited mobility. Online shopping allows older people to order groceries and household items for home delivery, reducing the need for physical trips to shops. In the same way, so can getting online to check and arrange transport and manage finances.
- Healthcare access: Online health resources and telehealth services have become increasingly important during recent times. Older people can use digital platforms to schedule appointments, access medical records, and even consult with healthcare professionals remotely, making healthcare more accessible and convenient.
- Entertainment and information: Streaming services, news websites, e-books, voice assistant technology (such as Alexa), and online games can help older individuals stay engaged, entertained, and informed by providing cognitive stimulation and better mental wellbeing.
To ensure digital inclusion for older people, it is essential to provide training and support tailored to their specific needs and challenges. Addressing issues such as digital literacy, accessibility, scam awareness, and affordability can go a long way in helping older individuals to realise the benefits mentioned above.
“My little electronic friend, Alexa Show, has been a fantastic help through a very challenging time… The little box has assisted me to retain a positive mental attitude and kept me calm and relaxed when I have started to feel anxious… All the features massively help me with my loneliness but keep my independence at the same time.”Group member, Engage Leeds
Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network
The Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network is a partnership between 100% Digital Leeds and Leeds Older People’s Forum, bringing together 38 organisations supporting older people across the city. The network builds sector capacity to support digital inclusion for older people by identifying shared priorities, forging new partnerships, and sharing learning and resources.
The network’s digital inclusion priorities for 2024 are:
- Online safety
- Online banking and money management
- Digital health participation
- Shopping for utilities and fuel poverty
- Recruiting and managing volunteers