Age UK Claim 2.3 Million People Aged 65+ Still Don’t Use the Internet

A new study from the charity Age UK has claimed that around 4.7 million people aged 65 and over in the United Kingdom are unable to complete all eight of the most fundamental tasks required to use the internet, while 2.3 million of those in the same age group do not use the internet at all (48% of these people are aged 75+).

The “fundamental tasks” mentioned above include being able to turn-on devices and enter account logins, use settings and controls on the device, open applications, set up connection to WiFi, open internet browsers, keep passwords secure and change passwords when prompted to do so. All fairly second nature to most of us, but not if you’ve had very little experience of computers or the internet in your daily life.

NOTE: The decision not to use the internet is not always a matter of choice. Sometimes things like disability (e.g. worsening sight) can rapidly become a big problem and it’s much harder for those in this age group to adapt. Equally, there can be other problems, such as financial barriers.

However, for those older people who have got over the barriers of using the internet, further analysis by Age UK shows that among those over 65s who are online, around 2.5 million are “unable to complete tasks required to thrive in a digital society in day-to-day life“. These key skills include being able to communicate, to store and access information and content, carry out transactions, search for information and be safe online.

The charity is clearly concerned about so many people “being left behind“, although it also correctly recognises that it “will never be possible to get everyone online and trying to force the issue poses a real risk to older people’s health, finances and ability to participate in society.” This is something that the government’s ongoing drive for everybody to go digital often overlooks.

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

“Many public as well as private service providers seem hell-bent on shifting their activities online but, as our new report shows, it’s clear that in doing so they are leaving fully one in three of the older population behind. In fact, the inconvenient truth is that many millions of people of all ages, especially older ones, are neither confident nor adept at using the internet, and want and need to continue to be able to transact their business in more traditional ways.

The Government should step in and ensure that we can all choose to access and use public services offline – by phone, letter or face to face as appropriate – rather than forcing everyone down a digital route many of us are struggling to navigate, and some of us are unable to navigate at all.

Older people who are not internet users or digitally savvy tell us how cross and upset they are when the main access to crucial services like GP appointments and Blue Badge applications, moves to being online. As our new report shows, this often leaves them feeling disregarded and disempowered, and the consequences can be serious, severing them from the support they need to stay fit, well and independent.

Age UK supports older people who want to go online to do so through a number of excellent digital programmes run by our local Age UKs, but the fact is that for a variety of reasons not everyone is able or willing to use the internet – particularly for more sophisticated tasks – and this will always be the case. Policy makers should stop fantasising about a digital-only world, come back down to earth and make sure older people can continue to access the services to which they are entitled – whether they use the internet or not.”

As we always say, not everybody wants to use the internet and nobody should force it on to those who don’t want or need it, but equally support should always exist for those who wish to give it a try. Admittedly, this philosophy will become increasingly strained as the Government continues to extend its digital-by-default strategy. Finally, Age UK has some recommendations.

Age UK Recommends:

➤ All public services, including the NHS, council services and other nationally provided public services, must offer and promote an affordable, easy to access, offline way of reaching and using them.

➤ The Government must make sure local government receives enough funding to provide offline services.

➤ There needs to be much more funding and support to enable people who are not internet users, but who would like to be, to get online.

➤ The Government should lead on the development of a long-term, fully-funded national Digital Inclusion Strategy, to support people of all ages who want to go online to do so (the last such strategy was produced in 2014).

➤ The Government should change the law to require banks to maintain face-to-face services.

➤ Banks must accelerate the roll-out of shared Banking Hubs to meet the high and continuing demand for face-to-face banking services.

Recent Posts