Today’s older Australians aged 65years or older only began to be exposed to the internet in middle age as part of its momentum gained in the 1990’s. It is understandable therefore that this generation of older Australians may not be as readily adapted to online processes or new technologies such as smartphones, virtual reality devices, disruptive technologies like uber or the latest features of a software upgrade.
The Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) has ranked Australians aged 65 years and over as the most digitally excluded age group (42.9, or 13.6 points below the national average). According to Roy Morgan research 7 in 10 Australians over 65 years have “gone online” in the past 3 months, but use the internet less frequently than younger Australians, spending an average of 7 hours online per week (ABS, 2015). Sending emails (76%), completing a banking transaction (53%), or paying a bill (48%) are amongst the key activities older Australians complete (Roy Morgan, July 2015). 43% of older internet users accessed social media in the 3 months prior to June 2015 (ABS 2015) with the most popular of these being Facebook (88%) followed by Google+ (16%), LinkedIn (12%), Pinterest (11%), Twitter (4%) and Instagram (2%) according to the Sensis 2015 Yellow Social Media Report.
Importantly as Government transitions several functions to an online delivery method, the potential for older Australians to be disadvantaged from these emerging and dominate communication methods is great. Only 15% of Australians over 65 years accessed government services, or health and medical information via the internet (Roy Morgan, 2015), or health services. 54% of people over 65 years stated they were “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied” with the concept of interacting with government primarily by digital methods according to the Australian Government’s digital transformation office.
Digital literacy and user capability is an important aspect of older Australians increasing their online presence. Over 16,000 reports, involving the loss of $9million, were reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch in 2016, representing 26% of all complaints. Moving government service delivery and communications online will increase the potential for scamming to target older Australians as email becomes the expected method of engagement and communication from government.
COTA will continue to advocate for programs and designs that are inclusive of older Australians and that are developed in a manner that encourages increased adoption and digital participation. It is critical that the transformation to digital services is focused on digital inclusion of participants of all ages and does not leave anyone behind.