Dr Sandra Haukka, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said seniors, particularly pensioners, risked being left behind as businesses and governments shifted more services to the web.
“With the government and private sector spending billions on the National Broadband Network, we have to make sure that the internet can be used by all those who need it the most,” she said.
Dr Haukka’s nationwide study, called Older Australians and the Internet, surveyed 149 participants aged 50 and older who were members of National Seniors Australia. It also included in-depth interviews with seniors who did not use or rarely used the internet, including those who lived in urban, regional, rural and remote areas.
She said society’s increasing reliance on the internet for commerce and services was leaving older Australians with low web skills unable to conduct business transactions, access services, find out about community events or use the internet to communicate with friends and family.
“While many participants thought that logging on will have little impact on their lives, in the near future they will be under great pressure to stay in their homes longer to reduce the strain on the government’s health budget caused by the ageing population,” Dr Haukka said.
“The internet should help people to live independently for longer, enabling them to learn, bank, shop, communicate and network from home.
“There are serious negative impacts for those without access to it, such as the inability to access Centrelink, which is shifting more and more of its services online, or obtaining their health records from Australia’s e-health record system when it becomes widely available in July 2012.”
Major findings in the report included:
– 53 per cent of participants said their interest in the internet was ‘moderate’ or ‘above’, while 46 per cent said their interest was ‘nil’ or ‘low’.
– Almost two-thirds of participants said they had ‘very low’ internet skills.
– More than 40 per cent of participants said cost was a barrier to using the internet.
– One-third (34 per cent) of participants said the internet would improve their daily life.
“Many seniors told us they need one-on-one help, more cheap classes, equipment, a helpline and clear instructions,” Dr Haukka said.
The report is available at http://www.cci.edu.au/publications/older-australians-and-internet
Stephanie Harrington, QUT media officer, 3138 1150, firstname.lastname@example.org