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Age UK Finds Elderly Internet Use is Generally Lower in Northern England

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 (1:55 am) - Score 864

A new study by Age UK has reported that adults over the age of 65 are generally less likely to be using the Internet if they live in the north of England than if they reside in the south. Older people in Tyne and Wear were the least likely to be online (28% connected), while those in Surrey to the south showed the strongest uptake (65%).

The short report suggests that the “reasons behind this divide are wide and varied“, although it doesn’t provide much in the way of detail or supporting evidence. On the other hand it’s often perceived that people in the North have lower economic wealth and health, which could be contributing factors.

In terms of telecoms infrastructure there’s probably a bit more rural and poorly served landscape to the north than the south, although Ofcom’s 2012 Infrastructure Update showed that standard broadband still manages to reach most parts of England and the differences don’t appear to be vast; though superfast broadband coverage is more of a problem.

David Mortimer, Head of Digital Inclusion at Age UK, said:

It is concerning that in some parts of the country, more than twice as many older people are able to access the benefits of being online than in other areas, particularly as there appears to be a north / south divide around internet use amongst older people.

The reasons behind this divide are wide and varied. We know for example that women aged 75 and over who live alone are the most likely group in society to have never been online. In addition, older people with lower economic wealth, those living alone and those in relatively worse health are far less likely to be online.

We hope this data will highlight to the government, local authorities and businesses the work that needs to be done across the country to help older people to get online. More services from the private and public sectors are moving online in a bid to make significant cost savings. However if they want older people to use these services, they need to help them get online in the first place with tailored and on-going support.”

Similarly the Office for National Statistics recently reported that there were still 4 million homes without Internet access in 2013 (down from 10 million in 2006) and 59% of those simply said they “did not need it” (up from 34% in 2006). We should thus remember that not everybody wants to go online.

Meanwhile Age UK are this week encouraging older people who have never been online to attend a local ITea and Biscuits Week session and is calling on people who use technology to help an older person they know to get to grips with the technology. To find an event or for more information visit www.ageuk.org.uk/itea-and-biscuits or call 0800 169 20 81.

internet use by age 65+ in england

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