(External News) Older people 'increasingly isolated due to internet'
7 October 2009
Older people are becoming an increasingly isolated generation, excluded from large parts of daily life because of the internet, a new study by a group at Oxford University has found.
Only half of those over the age of 50 have access to the web, leaving 10 million more unconnected.
On the ''wrong side of the digital divide'', they miss out on the social, educational and financial advantages of internet access.
According to the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), at Oxford University, many elderly people resist technology through fear of pornography or the lack of security associated with the web.
Meanwhile, others believe the internet is only for young people.
Of the 2,013 people surveyed, 47.1 per cent of the over-50s said they had never used the internet, compared with 9.6 per cent of 25- to 49-year-olds.
Only 51.5 per cent of people over 50 said they had access to the internet, compared with 81.7 per cent of 25-49-year-olds.
An analysis of the findings revealed a significant drop in internet user rates among people in their late 50s and another drop among people in their late 60s.
The differences were partially attributed to lower incomes among pensioners meaning they could not afford computers.
Tony Watts, editor of Mature Times, called for radical action to combat the ''digital divide.''
''It's very clear that the digital divide is rapidly becoming a gulf, and there is a huge swathe of people who will become increasingly isolated and disadvantaged unless some radical action is taken,'' he said.
While some older people regularly use the internet, many ignore the potential for researching healthcare options or simply distrust the web as a resource, he said.
Around 60 per cent of older people were ''very strongly'' concerned about spam, viruses and ''unpleasant experiences'' such as online pornography, researchers found.
''There are probably millions of people who are determined never to consider even trying to operate a computer,'' the editor added.
''Within the next decade or so, the Internet is likely to become the primary means of telecare - connecting people to remote health scanning and monitoring - and older people will have the biggest need of this.''
Bill Dutton, who directed the Oxford Internet Survey, said first hand experience was integral to overcoming issues of trust.
''Getting elders to experience the Internet, when they distrust it, is the central challenge,'' he said.
Researchers spoke to 916 people over the age of 50 for the study.
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