The new digital divide is among older Australians

Most older Australians won’t be shopping online or receiving e-Cards this Christmas because they are on the wrong side of a ‘digital divide’, National Seniors Australia says.

The consumer group for over 50s this year surveyed its members and found many are online, tech-savvy, or else keen to learn.

But others said that the digital world was a strange and unfriendly place they didn’t want to visit.

“We are aware of the divide between young and old but there is a growing digital division among older people themselves,” National Seniors Research Director Professor John McCallum said.

“The difference between those who are digitally literate, and those who are not is very marked, with many older Australians dependent on family and community for access, and others who have totally opted out of digital contact and service delivery,” he said.

One National Seniors member said most people aged in their 80s and 90s living in retirement villages were not interested in the ‘WWW’.

“You can forget about that for us,” the member said. “I won’t use it! The worst thing is they’ve now taken away our phones [landlines]. We’re feeling really cut-off. It’s all happening too fast.”

Of those digitally literate National Seniors members surveyed:

  • 90 per cent use a computer daily for email, internet or other tasks;
  • 36 per cent have contact with their children by text message or on social media three or more times per week, with another 33 per cent having contact once or twice each week;
  • 34 per cent have contact with family members, such as siblings, by text or social media at least once or twice a week;
  • Almost half have text or social media contact with friends at least once or twice a week;
  • 30 per cent indicated they accessed government websites for financial information about retirement; and
  • 23 per cent seek health and lifestyle information online.

Professor McCallum said older people valued human interaction, which is crucial to their physical and mental health.

“The digital world gets large amounts of information around quickly, but it doesn’t build the relationships and trust that makes information reliable and usable. Older people need community and government help to help embrace the benefits that technology offers,” he said.

Read the report here

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