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Digital exclusion creating new barriers for older people

in News
Digital exclusion creating new barriers for older people

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has raised concerns that older people who are not online, or find it difficult to use devices such as smartphones, are at risk of being excluded as the use of digital technology across society continues to increase significantly.

The Commissioner is inviting older people who have struggled to access information, services or other amenities due to being digitally excluded to get in touch with her to share their experiences, so she can identify particular difficulties and barriers people are facing, and areas where action is required.

The Commissioner’s call for evidence from older people comes following the publication of formal guidance in 2021 which set out the kinds of action local authorities and health boards should be taking to ensure that people’s rights to access information and services via non-digital means are upheld.

While responses from these bodies highlighted that a range of work is underway to support older people who are digitally excluded, engagement and discussions with older people suggest that there are still gaps and that further action is needed.

A significant number of older people in Wales are digitally excluded, with data showing that around a third of people aged 75+ are not online. Similarly, research undertaken by the Commissioner found that around a third of people aged 60+ do not use a smart phone, and that, amongst those that do, skills vary a great deal.

For example, 1 in 4 older people who use a smartphone said they would be unable to use their phone to pay for parking, while 1 in 5 said they could not scan a QR code or use a mobile ticket for an event. Over 10% also said that they were unable to use their smartphone to do a number of day-to-day things, such as accessing banking information, using maps, or tracking a parcel.

The Commissioner’s research also indicates that the increasing use of smart phones may be creating barriers in terms of older people getting out and about and doing the things that matter to them: over 30% said they would be less likely to undertake activities or visit places where a smartphone is necessary.

Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:

“Many of us, including a growing number of older people, increasingly use digital technology and online services as part of our daily lives, which can bring many benefits.

“But we know that for a significant number of older people who are not online, the shift towards digital has created new issues and barriers that can prevent people from accessing information and services, getting out and about and doing the things that matter to them, something reflected in what older people have been telling me at engagement events and through the findings of my recent research survey.

“Some older people have shared with me, for example, that they are unable to book online health appointments, while others have told me about difficulties they have faced when they are required to use apps to pay for services such as parking the car.

“To better understand the particular issues people are facing, and the impact these are having on people’s lives, I’m keen for older people who are not online or who struggle using digital technology to contact my office to highlight any difficulties and barriers they have faced.

“Hearing these voices and experiences will enable me to identify areas where further action may be required to ensure older people who are digitally excluded can access the information and services they need, and support my work to influence the practice of key public bodies, including local authorities and health boards.”

Older people (or their family and friends) can contact the Commissioner’s office to share their experiences until 1 September by phone, in writing or via the Commissioner’s website.

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