Digital exclusion: A rising concern for older people in Wales
Concerns about the increasing rate of digital exclusion among older people in Wales have been voiced by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
The issue, spotlighted by Helena Herklots CBE, the Commissioner, brings to the fore the rising barriers faced by older individuals, particularly those who are not tech-savvy or find it hard to navigate digital devices such as smartphones.
The Commissioner’s intervention follows a 2021 guidance that prescribed actions for local authorities and health boards, aimed at ensuring people’s right to access services and information via non-digital means. Despite steps taken by these bodies, a significant number of older Welsh people remain digitally excluded.
Official data suggests that around a third of individuals aged 75 or older are not online, while a similar proportion of those aged 60 and above do not use a smartphone. Moreover, even among those who do use smartphones, the level of digital literacy varies greatly.
About a quarter of the older smartphone users surveyed reported difficulties in using their phone for tasks like paying for parking. A fifth found scanning a QR code or using a mobile ticket for an event challenging. Over 10% confessed they could not use their device for everyday tasks like accessing banking information, using maps, or tracking a parcel.
The transition towards a digital-first society, although beneficial for many, has unintentionally created new hurdles for a significant number of older individuals. Some reported being unable to book online health appointments, while others struggled with applications necessary for everyday services like parking.
In light of these findings, the Commissioner has invited older people who have encountered barriers due to digital exclusion to share their experiences. She said: “Hearing these voices and experiences will enable me to identify areas where further action may be required.” Such testimonials can be submitted until September 1 by phone, in writing, or via the Commissioner’s website.
These efforts aim to ensure older people who are digitally excluded can access the information and services they need, supporting the Commissioner’s work to influence the practices of key public bodies, including local authorities and health boards.
Share your experiences of Digital Exclusion, click here.
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