Older Australians connect with technology

It’s one of the most frustrating misconceptions older Australians suffer from – they are too old to stay up to date with digital technology.

New research by National Seniors Australia helps shatter that myth.

The findings

We surveyed more than 4,500 of our members to complete one of our most comprehensive and insightful pieces of research.

The findings revealed just how connected older Australians are to digital technology.

These include:

  • 70 per cent of you told us you use an internet search engine every day
  • 40 per cent use Facebook daily
  • If you are over 80, more than half of you regularly use internet banking, while 20 per cent are on Facebook daily
  • 68 per cent of you don’t get frustrated using new technology, while two thirds of respondents said they don’t think technology is aimed at younger generations.

National Seniors Australia CEO, Professor John McCallum says the findings challenge negative stereotypes about older Australians and technology.

“There are just too many blanket statements that are very negative about older people’s skills, such as ‘they’re behind the times’, ‘they’re digitally illiterate’ or ‘there is a digital divide between young and old.”

Which surfer are you?

Using the term “surfers” - as in surfers of the internet, the research categorised respondents into four different levels of ability.

These are:

  • Super Surfers - If you are very comfortable using digital technology in your everyday life, then you are a Super Surfer. Our research found 31.4% of respondents were rated in this category.
  • Savvy Surfers - If you are very comfortable using digital services but not as frequently as a Super Surfer, then you are a savvy surfer. 41.6% of respondents were rated in this category.
  • Sometimes Surfers - You're a Sometime Surfer if you use digital technology when necessary but are not always comfortable or proficient. 21.8% were rated in this category.
  • Seldom Surfers - If you can use the internet and digital technology but rarely do, then you are a Seldom Surfer. Just 5.2% were rated in this category.

Professor McCallum says ‘Super Surfers’ are more likely to be women. 

“The odds of being a ‘Super Surfer’ are also higher for participants with children, who are in good health and still participating in the work force.”

Your feedback

The survey also gave you the opportunity to tell us about your experience and the perception of younger Australians about your ability to use digital technology.

One respondent said, “Many of us are beyond ‘good’ and would rate ourselves as excellent.”

Another respondent wrote, “I was part of the generation that developed the online world and I think understands it sometimes better than the younger generation.”

Many of you also expressed a desire for more training, as seen in this response:

“I feel I started late for this modern stuff. I have tried to learn at libraries but with only 1 hour and so many people, it’s not easy to receive 1 on 1 training.”

Another respondent told us, “I am 64. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t teach my 87-year-old mother to use the internet. I taught her how to send texts but the internet would be SO helpful as her mobility is now declining.”

Not a divide - a multiplication

One of the terms that gets used a lot when it comes to seniors and technology is the “digital divide” between younger and older Australians.

Professor McCallum says the research does not reflect this.

Instead of a divide, he says there are multiple levels in the skills of older Australians using the technology with those less skilled more vulnerable online.

“Those who have less skills are more likely to be victims of scams than those who are more skilled.”

“They’re also likely to find the costs of mobile and internet services a barrier to them using the internet and devices.”

“What we are looking at here is digital literacy as the new factor in the accumulative disadvantage experienced by vulnerable older Australians.”

You can download the full report from our website.

Learn more