Although the barriers to internet access are reducing through more affordable equipment and the rise of touchscreen devices, older people can sometimes face challenges in getting online. Accessibility still presents some problems, as does connectivity and even motivational barriers. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks as technology can reduce social exclusion, and can provide better access to health information and services.
Despite over 75s making up just 7.78% of the total UK population, 44% of people who have never used the internet in the UK are in this age range (UK Online - 2013). There are many opportunities to help an older relative or friend to try out the internet for themselves either informally or through campaigns such as Spring Online run annually by Digital Unite. A great way to start is searching for something they enjoy such as a hobby, sport or pastime, research local history or watching TV and listening to music.
Have a range of guides suitable for older people looking to use technology. They cover Computer Basics, Hobbies and Interests, Digital Photography and much much more. See them all in the Digital Unite Guides section of the website.
In 2012 Digital Unite and the Age Action Alliance produced a report on "The Digital Champion Capacity Building Framework" (484 KB PDF). This looked at the role of sustainably Digital Champions as a systematic approach to stimulating take up of online services and promoting confident and continued use of digital across society.
They have a Digital Inclusion thematic group to specifically to look at older people and technology. Members represent a wide range of organisations, public and private, who are working in some way with older people and digital technology. The group aims to make a tangible difference to the digital inclusion of older people through influencing others, supporting each other, combining assets and exploring new ideas.
News and information about technology for older people can be found in this section on their website.
In 2013 Loughborough University published the findings from the Sus-IT project, an in depth research project into the use of technology by older people.
The project's aims were:
From from October 2012 to March 2013, David Wilcox, Drew Mackie, Steve Dale and John Popham conducted an open exploration, on behalf of the Nominet Trust, into how we can use digital technology later in life, the Digital Technology For A Better Later Life wiki contains the research and also some ideas that flowed from that. David Wilcox summarises the research on his blog here that there is a lot of action in the field of social technology and later life taking place, but also suggested that more could be achieved through great cooperation and sharing of ideas.
There is reluctance by some people and organisations to 'have a go' with technology, but when ideasa are tried the benefits can be significant.
The final paper (as a PDF) published by Nominet Trust in August 2013 can be downloaded here.
The Nominet Trust have also conducted research into how older people can benefit from use of the internet, this guide and report presents the findings.
The Campaign to End Loneliness ran an event in July 2014 which considered this question. See the discussions and presentation slides on their website, then download the research report and 10 Tips for using Technology to Reduce Loneliness here (663 Kb PDF).
The Tinder Foundation oversee the running of 5000 UK Online centres of which 43 are specialist centres, specifically set up to help older people learn about computers and the internet within their local communities.
Anything missing? Tell us in the comments if you've seen or used a resource we should include here.
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