Seniors have never felt so isolated. Lockdowns in the eastern states, travel restrictions and rules preventing many people from visiting aged-care centres have had a huge impact on older people. It’s therefore fitting that the UN is marking this year’s International Day of Older Persons with the theme “Digital Equity for All Ages.”
Older people are going online more than ever before. According to a May 2021 report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority – The Digital Lives of Older Australians – the adoption of digital devices is increasing and 93% of older people had internet access in their home in June 2020, up from just 68% in 2017. At the same time, most are wary of technological change and struggle to keep up.
The problem of social isolation and the reliance on the internet is even more pronounced for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) seniors, who already struggle with language barriers and, since the pandemic, have frequently been isolated from important sources of connection such as multicultural centres, places of worship and libraries.
Giving Seniors Cyber Confidence
Technology can and should play an important role in helping seniors stay connected, but they need to have the confidence to use digital tools for more than watching subscription services or making phone calls. The fact is that banking, accessing healthcare services, accessing aged care services or housing services, and even making medical appointments are more easily managed online. Unfortunately, seniors are most at risk of cyberattacks and hackers because they are perceived as vulnerable.
As many as 50 percent of seniors don’t use the password feature on at least one of their internet-enabled devices and there are all-too-many stories of seniors being duped out of their savings.
If we are to keep older people connected and engaged, there needs to be commitment and investment in training programmes and support initiatives to safeguard and help seniors become digitally confident. That is something illuminance has been doing for some time. We work with communities and organisations to overcome the digital divide, for example, providing online safety training for seniors, a workshop designed to cover all areas of online safety.
Business and technology providers also have a role to play in keeping seniors safe online. Some large tech companies, such as Microsoft, have been introducing initiatives that may assist seniors in terms of simplicity and security. Microsoft recently introduced password-free sign-on designed to address the problem of hackers logging onto people’s devices and gaining access to sensitive information. However, some experts have warned that while the approach is good in theory, it could further sideline seniors since it replaces passwords with authentication apps, which many seniors might not understand.
Again, we believe this is where good training comes in. Once seniors are equipped with the information they need to better manage their digital presence, they do gain confidence to go online and use different devices. As a company, we remain committed to bridging the digital divide for everyone; it’s time more organisations – both private and public — stepped up to do the same. As a reminder to everyone, Friday 1 October is International Older Person’s Day. Take the time to connect with seniors you care about or to reach out to seniors in your community.
illuminance Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Partner and a 2019 Microsoft Global Partner of the Year: Partner for Social Impact.