New research released today by National Seniors Australia, the peak advocacy body for older Australians, challenges the stereotype that seniors are being “left behind” by digital technology.
Titled ‘Senior Surfers’, the online survey of more than 4,500 members, whose ages range from over 50 to those in their 90s, found:
· 70% use an internet search engine everyday
· 40% use Facebook daily (including close to 20% of those aged 80+)
· 63% don’t feel technology is designed for younger generations
· 68% don’t feel frustrated using new technology
National Seniors CEO, Professor John McCallum says it challenges 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.” said Professor McCallum.
The survey categorised respondents into four groups based on their digital literacy. These are:
· SUPER SURFERS – Someone very comfortable using digital technology in their everyday lives. 31.4% of respondents were rated in this category.
· SAVVY SURFERS – Someone who is very comfortable using digital services but not as frequently as ‘Super Surfers’. 41.6% of respondents were rated in this category.
· SOMETIMES SURFERS – Someone who uses digital technology when necessary but are not always comfortable or proficient. 21.8% were rated in this category.
· SELDOM SURFERS – Someone who can use the internet and digital technology but rarely do. Just 5.2% were rated in this category.
Professor McCallum says the ‘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.” he said.
One respondent said in the survey, “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.”
Professor McCallum pointed to the high levels of digital activity of those over 80.
“You would expect that people who are 80+ would be those left behind by these technologies.
“Our research shows that over half those 80+ used an internet search engine everyday and more than 50% of these did online banking once a week if not daily.
“The message from this is, it is a good idea to be digitally literate before you get into your 80s so you can enjoy the ease of access to family, friends and finances.” he said.
But he also says there is a financial and social impact by not being skilled in digital technology
“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.” said Professor McCallum.
Professor John McCallum is available for comment to be used on Tuesday’s publications
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