Savvy online seniors could teach others

Laura Polson
(Australian Associated Press)


Senior citizens who are thriving in the digital age make perfect teachers for those struggling in the online world, a new report says.

National Seniors Australia released its report on digital literacy among older Australians on Tuesday after surveying more than 4,500 people, aged from 50 to those in their 90s.

The responses show 70 per cent were using an search engine at least every day, with 50 per cent using it weekly for online banking, 60 per cent texting every day and 40 per cent on Facebook daily.

Their favoured phone apps were maps, weather, email and Facebook followed by internet banking, while Twitter and Instagram rated lower on the priority list for senior Australians.

The peak advocacy body for older Australians says the findings challenge stereotypes about the digital literacy of senior citizens.

“There are just too many blanket statements that are very negative about older people’s skills, such as ‘they’re behind the times’, ‘they’re digitally illiterate’ or ‘there is a digital divide between young and old’,” said National Seniors chief executive officer John McCallum.

The survey categorised respondents based on their digital literacy with those the most comfortable considered ‘Super Surfers’ (31.4 per cent) and ‘Savvy Surfers’ (41.6 per cent).

Those less confident were labelled ‘Sometimes Surfers’ (21.8 per cent) and ‘Seldom Surfers’ (5.2 per cent).

“The odds of being a ‘Super Surfer’ are also higher for participants with children, who are in good health and still participating in the workforce,” Professor McCallum said.

Another category ‘Stranded Surfers’ was included to indicate the sizeable portion of Australians aged 50 and over who are not engaging with digital technologies.

“We acknowledge the importance of not leaving Stranded Surfers ‘on the beach’, in a world where digital technology is increasingly pervasive,” the report states.

“By no means should the findings from this digitally literate cohort detract from the important issue of older Australians facing increasing barriers to service access if they are not online.”

The report’s recommendations included developing training programs with ‘Super Surfers’ the ideal digital mentors for the ‘Stranded Surfers’ – due to their similar ages and understanding of potential barriers.

Additionally, senior citizens should be involved in the design process of websites they frequently use with many reporting complicated websites, including those for government services, had challenged them.


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