Digital Lives of Older Australians
Older Australians are embracing the digital life. This is no mean fete when you consider that the only screens available to people in the early 1950s were in cinema.
ACMA released research by Roy Morgan (from 2015) showing the extent and character of their online participation:
• 79% of Australians over the age of 65 use the internet (this is compared to 58% in the US and 56% in the UK).
• The majority of older online users (85%) go onto the internet up to three times per day, with 50% using it more than three times a day.
• The main location for internet use for 65+ Australians is at home (98%), which is similar to other Australians, however internet use outside of the home is much lower for older Australians. The preference is to use a desktop computer (41%), laptop (27%) and sometimes a tablet (18%) as opposed to a mobile device (12%).
These figures are reflected in the experience of 78 year old retiree Lance Hooper, who stays busy doing community service and, when at home, research and study.
“I still depend on books to a large extent, but I use the internet for some aspects of research. I like to find out historical facts and try to understand people’s attitudes about things in this way. I know I’d really benefit from learning how to research better online though.”
Lance uses word processing to produce documents in a way that he finds more gratifyingly professional. To communicate, like most older Australians, he relies on email. However, unlike 72% of the national population who are 15 and over, he is less familiar with social media, and hasn’t learnt how to use apps that make voice or video calls, or send messages.
“I mainly use email to stay in touch with people, but I haven’t worked out how to include photos — that just bewilders me! My wife knows how to add photos on Facebook and I rely on her a bit, but sometimes she looks at things and forgets to show me, so I miss out. If I had those skills, I’d use social media more — probably not as much as young people who are on their phones and computers just about the whole time. I would probably not do that.”
Having gaps in their knowledge is typical of this age bracket. They feel frustrated and thwarted in their attempts to take full advantage of their digital devices, often missing out on better ways of connecting or adding another level of richness to their lives through specialist apps and social platforms.
That is why we provide IT and Tech Savvy Seniors courses at Macquarie Community College. We see it as a way to help senior Australians improve their safety online and participate in the modern digital society:
1.Tech Savvy Seniors: These courses are targeted to your level of expertise. For instance, depending on your experience and knowhow, you can choose between levels 1 to 3 in internet, social media and email use. There are introductions to smartphones, tablets and Kindle devices. You can learn about cyber safety, installing apps on your device, downloading or streaming digital music, how to use devices for digital photography, and how to use Skype and online shopping or banking sites.
2. Microsoft Suite: These courses offer basic computer skills, or teach you how to use word-processing, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher documents, including how to structure, create and insert images and tables into text-based documents.
3. Computer safety: This course covers cyber safety when using your computer: what can potentially go wrong, and how to avoid that.
4. Social media: This course will teach you all you need to know about social media, including how to edit and share images.