Why is it important for older people to be able to use digital services, to go online, to communicate with others via social media?
Evidence suggests that many 55-64 year year olds aren’t involved in any learning to improve their online skills. According to some, this lack of knowledge will affect their ability to be employed in many careers and is worrying as many people will be working until 67 or 68 years of age now. There are also concerns regarding increased loneliness and isolation if people aren’t accessing digital technology.
Benefits of Digital Technology
Unfortunately, in Ireland, access to broadband can be a stumbling block. Yet, the Internet is now a fundamental part of 21st century life. Our government is delivering many public services online. We can do much of our banking business online. Using the Internet provides a means of purchasing groceries (important for people who are busy or have difficulty leaving the house), of accessing services and information, of communicating with businesses and friends.
Having access to information on goods and services means that older people can make better-informed decisions. They can order their groceries or other shopping online thereby retaining their buying independence. This is particularly important if getting transport to a town is difficult. Newspapers can be consumed online with libraries providing a lending services on ebooks, emagazines and even access to archived material in the National Library.
Other benefits include warding off depression and loneliness in retired people. As the number of older people living alone increases, no matter how much they leave the home or have visitors, they will be spending time alone. Being able to access the Internet means that they can have company whenever they feel like it – be it playing Scrabble online, chatting to a family member using Facebook or Viber, reading the comments on online newspaper articles and taking part, or responding to others using Instagram or Twitter. They say that every person has a book in them. Writing a blog can be a good way to find out, to hone your writing skills and to connect with other bloggers.
Barriers that need to be overcome
Many older people don’t recognise or agree that they might be missing about by not being able to access the Internet, they don’t see how the benefits can outweigh the time taken to learn how to use it effectively. Online security and privacy are concerns as is the cost of gaining access to ICT devices. Yet, if an older person receives a tablet as a gift and is shown how to use it, I’ve heard it soon becomes a favourite past-time – be it reading on the kindle app, reading the newspapers or even playing games or using apps. We all know how confusing a new smartphone or tablet can be, until we get used to it. Therefore, time spent showing an older person how to use a device can be time well spent.
The fact is that once most older people join the digital world, it often becomes an integral part of their daily lives.
Are you over 65? What online services do you access most?