Over 75s face continued digital exclusion whilst mobile becomes universal for young

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Mobile phones are becoming universal for younger people, whilst people aged over 75 are continuing to find themselves digitally excluded, according to Ofcom.

The 2012 Consumer Experience Report, published this week, also highlights how age is continuing to play a role in switching services, with older people less likely than younger people to move supplier.

Mobile phones universal for younger people

The Consumer Experience highlights how mobile penetration has grown and points out that use amongst younger people is virtually universal (98% among 16-24s and 97% among 25-44s). Ownership of a mobile phone is lower among older age groups, with just over four in five 65-74s and three in five adults aged over 75 owning a mobile device.

Smartphone use has grown over recent years with seven in ten 16-24s now using a smartphone. More than a third of 45-64 year olds now own a smartphone but under one in ten 65-74s and just 3% of over-75s do so.

The over 75s

The report paints a disappointing picture for those concerned with how to encourage older people online. Since the last survey there has been a small drop in the percentage of those aged over 75 with broadband at home (26% to 23%). One in four aged 75+ use the internet, the same figure as 2011. Whilst 15% of 25-44 year olds have a tablet PC, just 4% of 65-74 and 1% of over 75s do.

The report highlights that these trends are not necessarily down to a lack of interest, noting that “involuntary non-ownership of internet has risen significantly among those aged over 75″. Cost is likely to be a factor, as well as continuing issues over ease of use. Ofcom report that 54% over 75s have difficulty using PC compared with 3% 16-24 year olds.

Switching services

Those aged over 65s are less likely than younger people to have switched their communications provider. But they also seem to be slightly more satisfied with the service they receive.

This raises fascinating questions about age and shopping around. Are older people more tolerant or do they have lower expectations of services than younger people. Or are technology companies providing services which better suit the needs of older people?

Our work on older consumers highlighted the lack of data about shopping around and age. Ofcom could usefully commission further qualitative work to explore why the rates of switching vary by age.

Disability and technology

The report highlights the links between disability and internet use. Home internet is significantly lower among each of the disability groups studied by Ofcom, with age playing an important role.

Yet whilst disabled people aged 15 -34 have comparable internet access to non disabled people, those aged over 35 with visual or mobility impairment fall behind those without an impairment of the same age group.

The report also highlights that those over 65 with a visual impairment are significantly less likely than other over 65s to have a mobile (65%).

ILC-UK and technology

Over recent years, ILC-UK have published a number of reports on technology across the lifecourse. Most recently, with the support of Nominet Trust we published “Nudge or Compel? Can behavioural economics tackle the digital exclusion of older people?”. Our work on technology and age can be found on our website.

David Sinclair

Thanks to @rich_w for flagging some of the disability statistics.

One thought on “Over 75s face continued digital exclusion whilst mobile becomes universal for young

  1. I think there’s a cultural barrier that exists among older people in understanding the new world of technology. They grew up in a world of monopolies where choice was a luxury. Choice is a pervasive concept now but it is still a barrier in understanding issues like ‘switching’.

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