The report of a comprehensive study into the activities of older Victorians on the internet was released today. A collaborative research study jointly commissioned by advocate COTA Victoria and engagement agency Ellis Jones, Older Victorians Online details surprising findings that challenge commonly held assumptions.
“This study debunks the myths and challenges stereotypes about older people and limitations to their activity online,” said Sue Hendy, Chief Executive Officer, Council of the Ageing (COTA) Victoria. “While not all older community members are active on social media platforms, there is now a significant population of older people active on web-based platforms.”
Surveying 174 Victorians aged over 55, the study tested activities and behaviours, including use of web 2.0 tools and services such as social media.
- Over 35% of older Victorians engaged not only with friends and family on social media platforms, but organisations and strangers with shared interests.
- The 65-75 age group had the most even spread of stakeholder interactions on social media, interacting with family (68.6%), friends (66.6%), organisations (45.9%) and products (22.9%).
- Two thirds Victorians over the age of 85 perform online banking and over 50% of 65 to 85 year olds book accommodation on line.
- Of note was the importance of engaging with people of shared interest online, with over 20% of 75-85 age group social media users interacting around their hobbies.
“The common perception of older people not using the internet, unable to use technology and being too afraid of fraudulent activity to shop or interact with others online is clearly being challenged,” said Kate Crawshaw, Director of Engagement at Ellis Jones.
“Many older people enjoy and feel empowered by their ability to communicate online and clearly possess the skills to perform relatively complex activities such as banking.”
“With just under 1.4 million Victorians over the age of 55, companies and healthcare providers that assume older people are not active online are at the very least squandering opportunity and at worst creating barriers to participation,” said Ms Crawshaw.
The study results are good news for the commonwealth government as it rolls out the national broadband network and government 2.0 strategies to deliver healthcare, education and other services online. Importantly, it opens the door to greater engagement with older people to understand their concerns.
Social integration is critical for the overall wellbeing of older people who are more prone to social exclusion due to decreased mobility and increased ill health. There are significant benefits in the ability for those with reduced mobility to connect and communicate with people within their pre-existing social group and others with shared interests.
Ms Hendy will present the report to the International Federation of Ageing, 11th Global Conference on Ageing in Prague on 28th May, 2012.
Download the full report here.
Ellis Jones provides market research, communication and online strategy services to organisations engaging with older Australians. Find out more.
Image credit: Silas Mask, Flickr Creative Commons