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Overall theme

Digital technology will be significant for everyone later in life - and a lot of older people may be excluded from the benefits.

Most peoples lives are already heavily dependent on technology through the appliances we use, the ways we communicate and engage with banks, shops and public services. That is likely to increase, and the challenge in later life is to make the best use of technology that we can as our circumstances, interests and abilities change.

Digital technology can certainly bring particular benefits later in life. It can help combat loneliness and social isolation, and provide new opportunities for people to connect, learn, develop new activities, and find a new role in life.

In addition, having access to online systems, either personally or through someone who will act as a helper or proxy user, will be essential as public services become digital by default.

Because of these potential benefits, and policy imperatives, a great deal has been done to encourage and support use of technology under digital inclusion programmes. However, achieving the benefits, and widespread take-up, has not been easy.

  • In May 2012 the Communications Consumer Panel, a statutory body advising Government, reported that 22% of the UK adult population eleven million people - still do not use the internet at home. In the Panels view the challenge to increase participation is underestimated meeting the challenge is underfunded and people who remain unable to access online services will suffer increasing detriment if the challenge isn’t met.
  • The panel reported that older and disabled people, and those in low-income households, are much less likely to use the internet at home. In common with many other industrialised countries, the UK is experiencing a slow-down, almost a plateau, in Internet take-up

From our exploration we concluded:

  • Inability or unwillingness to use digital technology may or may not be a missed opportunity for well-being and enjoyment. However, it will almost certainly be a problem for those not online, and government, as public services can increasingly only be accessed online, or with special assistance.
  • Just how technology helps will be different for everyone, because its use is personal. Seeing someone as older isnt a good enough perspective through which to understand what will be appropriate. The mix of life experience and ageing is complex.
  • Because of this, a lot of older people aren’t using the Internet, and this is for a variety of reasons. They may not see the see the benefit, be anxious about the online world, find technology challenging.
  • Technology could be made more attractive and easier to use - particularly if co-designed with older people. What’s needed is co-design to improve general usability and value, and then help to apply the benefits of technology in specific circumstances
  • Computers are only one route online. Tablets, smartphones and connected televisions offer other options.
  • One-off demonstrations or courses aren’t enough for the less-confident. Digital champions among older people can help each other. Sustaining successful use of digital technology is important to achieve benefits, and deal with life changes.
  • The common lessons that we found for engaging people both early and later in life are: start where people are at, with their circumstances and interests; co-design with users; encourage peer-to-peer learning and support.

All of our provocations aim to address these issues - with the first being particularly important: Look at personal needs and interests as well as common motivations - one digital size wont fit all. Here are the main themes and insights that emerged from our exploration.

dtlater/overall_theme.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 15:20 (external edit)