Millions of older people being cut off by lack of basic internet skills – Age UK

29 March 2024, 00:04

A laptop
Laptop stock. Picture: PA

New report from Age UK warns of over-65s being left behind as more public services move online.

More than 4.5 million people aged 65 and over are unable to complete the most fundamental tasks needed to use the internet successfully, a report from Age UK says.

The charity’s analysis warned it meant millions of older people could be left behind as more essential services – including healthcare, banking and utilities – move online.

Age UK’s new report, Offline and Overlooked, found that 4.7 million over-65s are unable to complete what are considered the eight key tasks to using the internet: being able to turn on devices, enter login details, use settings and controls, open applications, connect to WiFi, open internet browsers, keep passwords secure, and change passwords when prompted to do so.

And despite an increase in the number of older people going online in recent years, the charity said around one in six – equivalent to 2.3 million older people – did not use the internet at all.

Age UK is calling on all political parties – ahead of the general election expected this year – to commit to ensuring that all public services offer and promote an affordable, easy to access, offline way of reaching and using them.

It has already launched a petition calling for a stop to online being the only option to access services, which has surpassed 50,000 signatures.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Many public as well as private service providers seem hell-bent on shifting their activities online but, as our new report shows, it’s clear that in doing so they are leaving fully one in three of the older population behind.

“In fact, the inconvenient truth is that many millions of people of all ages, especially older ones, are neither confident nor adept at using the internet, and want and need to continue to be able to transact their business in more traditional ways.

“The Government should step in and ensure that we can all choose to access and use public services offline – by phone, letter or face to face as appropriate – rather than forcing everyone down a digital route many of us are struggling to navigate, and some of us are unable to navigate at all.”

She added that digital exclusion was “severing” older people from the support they needed to stay “fit, well and independent”.

“Older people who are not internet users or digitally savvy tell us how cross and upset they are when the main access to crucial services like GP appointments and Blue Badge applications, moves to being online,” she said.

“As our new report shows, this often leaves them feeling disregarded and disempowered, and the consequences can be serious, severing them from the support they need to stay fit, well and independent.

“Age UK supports older people who want to go online to do so through a number of excellent digital programmes run by our local Age UKs, but the fact is that for a variety of reasons not everyone is able or willing to use the internet – particularly for more sophisticated tasks – and this will always be the case.

“Policy makers should stop fantasising about a digital-only world, come back down to earth and make sure older people can continue to access the services to which they are entitled – whether they use the internet or not.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Being able to get online and navigate the digital world with confidence is important whatever your age.

“To ensure no-one is left behind in the digital age, we’ve made free training available for people with limited digital skills and put essential digital skills on an equal footing with English and maths in the adult education system.

“In addition, all new central government services must be available through other options offline like on the phone, face-to-face meetings or by letter.”

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

AI study

Action needed to protect election from AI disinformation, study says

Dr Laura Cinti looks up at an E.woodii plant growing in a glasshouse at Kew Gardens

AI enlisted in the hunt for female partner for lonely ancient plant

A mobile phone next to a telecoms mast near Dundry, Somerset

Pace required to hit targets on rural mobile signal unsustainable, report says

A NatWest sign

NatWest apologises to customers after mobile and online banking suffer outages

Greg Clark

AI regulators in UK are ‘under-resourced’, warns science committee chairman

Openreach engineer

Plans to build full fibre broadband in more than 500 new places unveiled

TikTok strategy

Tory TikTok launch ‘pathetic’ compared with Labour’s ‘savvier’ approach – expert

Person using laptop

More than 300 million children a year face sexual abuse online, study suggests

There are calls for mobile phones to be totally banned for under 16s

Calls for mobile phones to be totally banned for under 16s

A young girl using a mobile phone (picture posed by model)

Next government should consider banning phones for under-16s, report says

Sir Chris Bryant

AI should be used to develop an app which detects skin cancer, Labour MP says

Handout image from Microsoft of its Copilot virtual assistant displayed on a laptop screen

Microsoft expanding Copilot AI assistant to organise meetings and support teams

Solar panels on a house roof

Octopus Energy launches ‘buy now, pay later’ for solar panels

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi set for June IPO in welcome boost for London market

A person using a laptop

Nations agree to develop shared risk thresholds for AI as Seoul summit closes

Microsoft new equiment

Data regulator looking into Microsoft’s AI Recall feature