Whilst there’s a hugely positive trend of more people in later life using the internet, we need to make sure that we continue to support them to get online, and stay online.
ONS data released last week shows that internet usage is growing fastest amongst those approaching and in retirement. Usage amongst the over-55s has grown by an average of 800,000 each year since records began in 2011, reaching 14 million today (compared to the 236,000 annual increase in usage amongst 35s-54s, with 17 million now online).
Access to the services and opportunities
This is great news, meaning more people in later life than ever before have access to the services and opportunities that the internet provides. However, as with all statistics, the devil is in the detail.
Firstly, whilst there has been an increase in internet usage amongst this age group, the numbers are still low. Only 4 out of 10 people over the age of 75 used the internet in the last 3 months. Over 4.4 million people over the age of 55 have still never used the internet- making up 92% of those who have never been online. There is still a clear divide in internet usage amongst younger and older people.
In addition to this, another interesting statistic emerged out of this latest statistical release. In the past year, there has been a notable increase amongst those aged over 75 who used to use the internet but have now stopped. In the past year, the number of over 75s who have stopped using the internet increased by 129,000, reaching a total of 368,000 lapsed users in this age category (7.3%). Compare this to just 1% of those aged 45-54 who have stopped using the internet, and the 0.3% amongst all age groups younger than 45.
My Grandma is one of those 100s of thousands. We’ve always encouraged her to use a computer or laptop and most recently we bought her a tablet. Whilst the use of her laptop was relatively limited she would use it do the basics (send an email, look up the weather forecast). However, she never really ‘clicked’ with it and eventually she gave her abandoned laptop away. A few years later she decided she wanted to (or should) get back online, so we bought her a tablet. Again, the relationship with her tablet was a rocky and short-lived one, and a recent malfunction with her email account has led to her to abandon the internet once again.
So, whilst there’s a hugely positive trend of more people in later life using the internet, we need to make sure that we continue to support people to get online, and stay online. As more and more services and access to entitlements move online, we can’t just wait and hope for the gap in internet usage to close.
Getting the most out of digital
In order to support more people in later life to get online, we need to understand their motivations and concerns about using the internet and what helps and hinders them in using it.
We want to identify promising offline approaches to help more people in later life benefit from the internet in a sustainable way and access the information, advice and services that they want and need.