Digital Seniors (Internet use)

The meaning and use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) has greatly increased in recent years. Information and communication services are increasingly concentrating on new media such as the Internet. Since 1997, the use of the Internet at least occasionally, has increased steadily. While the age group up to 69 years showed a large increase during this time period, the intensive use of the Internet among people aged 70 years and above remained behind and at the end of 2014, only 41 per cent were Internet users. These statistics show that elderly people are particularly affected by a "digital divide."

The study on Internet usage of older people conducted in Switzerland by Schelling and Seifert (2010) collected representative data on Internet use in old age and the reasons for non-use of the Internet for the first time. For example, the researchers were able to find out what the preferred applications for older Internet users are. In addition to lack of support, it is mainly personal obstacles and fears that hamper Internet usage among the elderly. Additionally, websites with non-user-friendly design and navigation cause avoidable obstacles that act as barriers to Internet use in old age (see project ageweb.ch).

Five years after the first survey of people aged 65 years and above in Switzerland, there are still open research questions on Internet use in old age. In addition, it is also interesting to see whether the use and importance of such technologies in the everyday lives of older people has changed since the first survey. Another aspect is the extent to which the Internet is nowadays used on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) by the older generation and thus also results in a new range of use, both in the home and outside the home. The combination of mobile technical possibilities and personal mobility also allows a new source of resources – for example, if the smartphone can be used as a guide or source of information in the public domain. Also, the question arises whether these mobile devices would be easier for the elderly to use with their simplified user interface, and therefore also represent an entry-level technology in the digital world, or even a replacement for the classic computers and other devices.

The data used (2014) was acquired throughout Switzerland via a standardized telephone survey. The random sample consisted of 1,037 people aged between 65 and 100 years old. Although the digital divide between the generations has lessened over the past years, only 55.7 per cent of interviewed elderly people were using the Internet in the autumn of 2014. Internet usage differs strongly between age groups. Resources like education, income and health positively impact actual use of the Internet. Additionally, recommendations from a person’s social environments, as well as an affinity for technology and a personal benefit assessment have a positive impact on Internet usage in older individuals. In particular, security concerns and difficulties of use were mentioned as predominant reasons for the non-use of the Internet by this age group. Some of the people questioned feel excluded from society because they don’t use the Internet. The exclusion of today’s elderly “offliners” should be avoided, even if the digital divide will decrease in the future.

Duration: 05/2014 bis 03/2015

Contact:
Alexander Seifert, alexander.seifert@zfg.uzh.ch