18/02/2021

The 70+ Age Group in the UK Has Been Using Technology Like Never Before

More older people than ever before have taken to new technologies to stay connected with their loved ones, whether this was by learning how to use Zoom for the first time, trying new messaging apps, or even mastering visual modes of communication like emojis and stickers. We asked a selection of people in the 70+ age group about their relationship to technology to see how the pandemic has changed their tech consumption habits.

Let’s face it, the news is depressing. When we engage in the unhelpful behaviour of doom scrolling through our timelines, more often than not we’re confronted with horrifying stories of how dangerous COVID-19 is for the elderly. While this is the truth and we need to collectively be doing our best to keep the elderly population shielded as much as possible, what’s often neglected to be mentioned is just how resilient and adaptive older people have been last year and this year during a very challenging time. The figurehead of this was of course Captain Sir Tom Moore for the amount of money he raised for the NHS, but there’s much more that can be seen just by looking closer to home and to the older people around us.

According to recent research; across the board, the percentage of UK households with access to the internet through 2019 and 2020 has risen to 96% which is the highest that it’s ever been. With the frequent use of tech becoming increasingly common, more people across all age groups have been using smartphones to access the internet. A recent study has found that around 80% of 55-75 year olds in the UK now own or have access to a smartphone. While the 16-24 age group was found to have the highest number of people reporting that they use smartphones to browse the internet (96%) from a study published in 2019, the number of people aged 55 and over using a smartphone to go online was 39%, a significant number of people within the UK population- so not just the young people!

What’s clear is that over the past few years, our senior citizens have been adopting technology like never before, and they’re not slowing down. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic, when the need to communicate using technology to connect with loved ones has never been more important. We asked several people within the 70+ age group about how their relationship with technology has evolved over the course of the pandemic so far.

Mary, 76

What new tech skills or apps have you learned how to use during the pandemic?

I learned how to use Zoom and I downloaded different apps like the NHS COVID-19 tracing app. I’ve also done online shopping using supermarket apps.

Has tech/ gadgets benefited your life over the past year? (If yes, why?)

Tech has definitely benefitted me as I’ve been able to keep in touch with family by doing Zoom quizzes and sharing photos in our Whatsapp family group chat.

How frequently do you use the internet these days?

I use it everyday as I use my Kindle to read books- it’s a wonderful thing!

Stephen, 78

What new tech skills or apps have you learned how to use during the pandemic?

I’ve installed the QR scanner app, the NHS COVID-19 tracing app, Zoom, the Smart Shop app, YouTube to listen to music and I’ve been using the app for our local fish and chip shop Capplemans. I also learned how to access my wallet app so that I could use my phone to pay in supermarkets.

Has tech/ gadgets benefitted your life over the past year? (If yes, why?)

I’ve definitely benefitted as I’m able to keep in touch, stay up to date and access e-books.

How frequently do you use the internet these days?

I use the internet more or less every day, probably for 2/3 hours especially for reading.

Keith, 72

What new tech skills or apps have you learned how to use during the pandemic?

I learned how to use Zoom and Skype during the pandemic.

Has tech/ gadgets benefitted your life over the past year? (If yes, why?)

Yes, I've been able to arrange shopping deliveries to our home; minimising face-to-face contacts. I've also been able to maintain contact with friends and family by phone, WhatsApp and Zoom.

How frequently do you use the internet these days?

I use my phone, laptop and desktop many times each day.

Sylvia, 71

What new tech skills or apps have you learned how to use during the pandemic?

Having to shield and isolate has been difficult, but I’ve started using my Samsung tablet to buy my groceries. It was really difficult to get a slot and remember to get everything I needed without seeing it, but now I have my shopping list saved on there so I don’t need to worry about feeling too tired to ‘look around’.

Has tech/ gadgets benefitted your life over the past year? (If yes, why?)

My tablet, like I’ve already said, has been helpful for shopping and it’s been useful for doing video calls with my doctor over the course of the year.

How frequently do you use the internet these days?

I watch Netflix and listen to music using my Google Home Mini every day, but my son says I need faster internet to do more things.

Michael, 85

What new tech skills or apps have you learned how to use during the pandemic?

I’ve learned how to use Skype and FaceTime which I use daily on my iPhone and iPad. I also use Audible to get talking books.

Has tech/ gadgets benefitted your life over the past year? (If yes, why?)

We [Michael and his wife Janet] would have been lost without the internet. We order shopping each week online and buy everything we need from plants to coffee, as we haven’t gone into the shops for over a year. We also receive and read the daily paper online which is very convenient.

How frequently do you use the internet these days?

We use the internet daily; it’s literally a lifeline. I’m currently tracing my ancestors so I’m spending several hours a day on Ancestry, Wikipedia and other websites. We don’t use any social media sites though.

The stereotype that the elderly are unable to get to grips with technology can easily be called into question simply by observing how older people in our lives have been using smartphones, tablets, and more over the course of the pandemic. An increasing number of people in the older age brackets are making technology work for them by using it for shopping, medical appointments, music, reading and research. It will be fascinating to see how these trends will develop over the next few years and beyond.

Gabrielle

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