By Katherine Milne, Parliamentary, Policy and Communications Assistant
For today’s generation, digital literacy is second nature. But for older people, the world of online GP appointments, banking and social media is far removed. A lack of digital inclusion for older people is an emerging and growing problem; a campaign launched by Friends of the Elderly raised the concern that the internet may alienate over 700,000 people over the age of 60 by 2030, as shops and service providers continue to place their focus on the online domain. The development of a digital divide between the younger generations and older people is visible within the context of a Digital Britain, leading to the necessity of intervention that ensures the equal equipping of society with digital skills, and therefore the avoidance of a technologically disadvantaged segment of the population.
Research is required to identify the barriers to the digital exclusion of older people. One barrier is the major lack of understanding surrounding how the internet actually works, and another remains a dismissive attitude based on the conviction that the internet is not necessary. In a world where anything from the sharing of resources to discount deals is heavily reliant on the internet, it is increasingly important for the active communication of the benefits of being online to older people.
CSAN members recognise how essential it is that the digital divide is decreased. Caritas Salford, Catholic Care Leeds, Nugent and Irish Chaplaincy work with older people which includes encouraging older people to explore and develop digital literacy. While these charities are working at a grassroots level to counter the problem of digital illiteracy, Get Online Week (17-23 October) highlights this issue on a national scale. This year marks their 10th campaign aimed at overcoming the digital exclusion of older people by helping communities across the UK to discover the advantages of the online world. The Get Online website offers a range of services, including a map of campaign events taking place in places across the UK, such as in community centres and libraries, which aim to teach older people how to use and make the most of laptops, smart phones and tablets.
To take part in this year’s campaign, you can register as a Get Online Week Event Holder to gain access to marketing resources and the training needed to reach out to people in a community to demonstrate how digital skills are vital to overcoming unemployment, staying in touch with family and friends, and helping with healthcare problems. Please visit https://www.getonlineweek.com/take-part/ for more information.
If you are looking to help an older relative or friend to get online, then you can also read this informative news article by the Telegraph for a concise guide to breaking down barriers to the digital world.
The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.