'Digital divide': Seniors being left behind in modern age

AUSTRALIAN seniors are being torn apart by the 'digital divide' with fears many are being left behind in the modern age.

That's the dire warning from National Seniors Australia which believes many older Australians "opted out of digital contact".

The consumer group for over 50s surveyed its members and found a chasm in the online sphere was growing.

"We are aware of the divide between young and old but there is a growing digital division among older people themselves," National Seniors Research Director Professor John McCallum said.

"The difference between those who are digitally literate, and those who are not is very marked, with many older Australians dependent on family and community for access, and others who have totally opted out of digital contact and service delivery."

The survey found:

  • 90 per cent use a computer daily for email, internet or other tasks;
  • 36 per cent have contact with their children by text message or on social media three or more times per week, with another 33 per cent having contact once or twice each week;
  • 34 per cent have contact with family members, such as siblings, by text or social media at least once or twice a week;
  • Almost half have text or social media contact with friends at least once or twice a week;
  • 30 per cent indicated they accessed government websites for financial information about retirement; and
  • 23 per cent seek health and lifestyle information online.

And though the results show many Australian seniors are proficient in the new technological age, or at least willing to learn, others are switched off by the impersonal approach of connecting through a computer.

"The digital world gets large amounts of information around quickly, but it doesn't build the relationships and trust that makes information reliable and usable. Older people need community and government help to help embrace the benefits that technology offers," Professor McCallum said.


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