Growth in the numbers of people online is being driven by the over-65s. But the way they use the web is different.
In the UK the number of over 65s (‘baby-boomers’) accessing the internet increased by over 25% in 2013. The percentage of those over 65 who are going online reached 42% in 2013. According to Ofcom’s ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014’ the use of tablets by this age group is a key reason for the growth.
The figures show that over 65 year-olds:
- Spend much less time on average online (just over nine hours) than16-25 year olds (just over 24 hours)
- Are less likely to use a range of online services with the majority of them carrying out just two activities (browsing and emailing)
- Spend less time accessing social media with only 30% regularly doing so (compared to 68% of other adults)
Meanwhile 16-24 year-olds:
- Are much more informed about protecting personal information
- Are more likely to have blocked people
- Are (according to research by Merchant Warehouse) ‘pulling ahead’ and having higher expectations as consumers
Similar patterns are being reported in the Netherlands. The over-65s in particular have made great advances in their understanding of the online environment and 86% of the Dutch population can now send emails.
However, this understanding of the tools does not necessarily mean that people are equipped to evaluate what they are finding online. Younger users are less likely than the over 65s to question online sources.
Digital support for the elderly
A report from Nesta describes how social entrepreneurs and digital technologies are being used to provide help and support for the elderly. Examples include a service linking keen cooks with elderly people who need a hot meal, to an app that helps members of an individual’s ‘care community’ to organise their time and allocate tasks.