The internet - a basic necessity denied

In 2013, a survey found broadband to be the number 1 'bare necessity' of life in Britain. Nearly all younger adults, make regular use of the internet for things like:

  • Keeping in touch with friends and relatives, making new contacts
  • Finding information on healthcare, services, and general interests
  • Paying bills, banking, shopping around and making bookings
  • Saving money on purchases and payments
  • News, games and hobbies

So, anyone who is not online is disadvantaged. Life is harder because they have less choice, higher costs, worse access, and less contact with friends.

The people with higher needs are more deprived! About 9000 Bracknell residents are not online and 7000 are aged 65+. Carers, the disabled, and those on low incomes are also less likely than average to be online.

Over 10,000 older people in Bracknell Forest are disadvantaged. It's not just being online! Half of over 65s make limited use. For example, they may Skype or browse a few websites; but not spend much time online and take advantage of online applications and payments.

We called for help

This was too much for Age Concern alone so we referred it to the Older Peoples Partnership, where it is now a priority and we are working with partners to address it.

We need more organisations and older people themselves to get involved and help and encourage everyone to get online.

What needs to be done?

Being online has so many advantages that most people regard it as a necessity. Providers make this 'digital divide' worse and worse because it costs them far more to serve the public face-to-face. Those who are offline or making limited use need to be shown how much they are disadvantaged!

There are four categories of internet use, with about 3,500 Bracknell pensioners in each:

  1. offline and uninterested (unaware they'll need it)
  2. offline but interested (worried about how to start)
  3. restricted use online (needing encouragement)
  4. expansive use online (i.e. normal users)

Group 1 need to understand what they are missing and find at least one good reason to use the internet. We point it out in newsletters and leaflets and show it at social events. If friends and family can catch their interest, it can be life-changing.

Group 2 need help and advice to get started. This can best come from friends who have recently got online. We arrange events to bring people together, get hands-on, show what is possible and stimulate discussions.

Group 3 needs more promotion and availability of the kind of help and training available from the Open Learning Centre.

Group 4, older people themselves, could do a great deal to help their peers to get more out of life.

What can you do?

If you have a friend over 65 who is not getting all the benefits of being online, help them. One-to-one advice is best - especially if you are over 65 yourself.

They don't have to be online to be part of a network. Get them to contact Age Concern, become a member, receive our newsletters and attend some of our events - take it from there.

If you take part in any organisation or club involving older people, PLEASE get them to address the importance of 'digital inclusion'.

According to Office for National Statistics 30% of 65-74 year olds and 60% of over 75s have never used the internet.

Age UK says people offline are three times as likely to say they're lonely, and being online helps to make savings and pursue hobbies.
Older people living alone, in relatively worse health, or lower income are the most likely groups in society to have never been online.

Within the Age Action Alliance, Age UK London recommends how to get older people online in four stages. (Read the summary)

In the 2011 census 14,147 out of 113,205 residents were over 65.

BBC news reports that Internet training would cut pensioner loneliness

According to Ofcom more older people are using tablet computers (e.g. iPad) to get online.


Page updated 14/07/2015