Age and the digital divide during Covid-19

One of the legacies of Covid-19 will be that it shone the spotlight on the digital divide, which disproportionately impacts older and disabled people.

Image shows the front cover of the report, which is titled Covid-19 and the digital dividePre-pandemic, the number of people who had never or not recently used the internet were more likely to be in mid to later life, according to the ONS. Of those who had never or not recently used the internet, 32% were aged between 50 and 69.

This equates to around 1 million people.

A report commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better explores how Covid-19 impacted digital skills and usage among older people. 

Doing more with digital technology

Digital inclusion isn’t just about access to technology; it’s about skills and confidence, concludes the report, which Citizens Online conducted.  

Older people are more likely to be so-called “narrow” users and only perform limited online activities daily. 

Over 55s are more likely to be in this category than younger users, with 32% of 55–64-year-olds classified as narrow users and 49% of 65–74-year-olds. 

Low awareness of local digital support

The report found low awareness of locally provided digital support from organisations such as Citizens Online and AbilityNet. 

The phone poll found that only 13% of people knew how to find local support. 

It also acknowledged the need for those providing support to pivot quickly to provide support by phone or online (remote support) during the pandemic. 

Helping you do more with technology

AbilityNet supports older and disabled people to do more with their technology.

Our network of 300+ volunteers supports people UK-wide. Covid-19 created a record year for our FREE tech help and saw us supporting record numbers. Our FREE tool, My Computer My Way, helps people unlock accessibility features and do more with desktop and laptop computers and smartphones. 

For FREE help and support, Call the AbilityNet Helpline on 0800 048 7642

Lack of motivation is a common barrier to doing more, says the Centre for Ageing Better report. But, with support, people can achieve more, as our own research shows. Of those who receive support from AbilityNet:

  • 82% are better able to use technology
  • 78% find it easier to manage day-to-day life
  • 86% increased confidence
  • 72% more independent
  • 68% less isolated

What next? Recommendations to close the digital divide

The report makes recommendations to continue to close the digital divide. Recommendations include greater recognition of the role of national and local organisations supporting people with technology and more devices being delivered into community settings. 

AbilityNet has already seen the strength of delivering devices and support in tandem for older people and those with learning difficulties and disabilities.  

Meanwhile, tech companies are stepping up to provide low-cost broadband and schemes designed to close the digital divide.  

The report also advocates encouraging peer support through digital champions.

How AbilityNet can help