Age UK is calling for greater support for those who are offline and finding it increasingly difficult to access essential goods and services.
The charity’s report Digital inclusion and older people – how have things changed in a Covid-19 world? shows that while just under a quarter (24%) of over-75s in England have increased their internet usage since the pandemic hit, this is mainly driven by existing users going online more often.
Most older online users say their use has remained unchanged, with nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) actually using it less. A few months into the pandemic more than two in five (42 per cent) of this age group were still non-users, busting the myth that as a result of this health emergency ‘everyone’ is now online.
Age UK said more investment in digital skills training and IT hardware is needed to support older people who are digitally excluded to get online safely and improve their skills. Without it, many older people will simply be left behind, with some struggling to access basic goods and services.
The Charity is warning that it is therefore essential that those who cannot or do not want to use the internet are not excluded or disadvantaged as a result.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘These new findings debunk the idea that the pandemic has prompted a headlong rush online among our older population, and that once an older person starts to use computers they continue to do so and carry out an ever-wider range of tasks using technology.
‘This will disappoint many businesses and policymakers who are keen to move to a digital approach, in the hope of cutting costs. However, our analysis shows that if we continue in that direction and do nothing else, we will simply marginalise millions of older people who either cannot or do not wish to use computers, many of whom never will.
‘We have seen ourselves at Age UK that one-to-one support and free or subsidised kit and broadband really helps overcome these difficulties and we are very grateful for all the donations and funding of this kind that we have received from partner companies.
The fact is though that if government and businesses really want to see a rise in the number of older people using computers, sustained investment is required. More could certainly be done though if the political will and financial wherewithal were there.’
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