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Online literacy the key to bridging the digital divide gap for older Australians

The Good Things Foundation hopes to reduce the impact of digital exclusion by getting older people to ‘Try One Thing’ and to learn how to navigate the online world safely during Get Online Week this week.

<p>Digital literacy is beneficial for older people, and it is never too late to adopt technology. [Source: iStock]</p>

Digital literacy is beneficial for older people, and it is never too late to adopt technology. [Source: iStock]

Older Australians are struggling to keep up with a growing digital divide with more than 80% of people aged 65 and older struggling to adapt to changes in technology or learn digital literacy.

One in four Australians are also classified as digitally excluded, whether that is due to a lack of digital skills or inaccessibility to digital devices like smartphones and computers.

Linda Berrigan, Director of Brand and Storytelling at the Good Things Foundation, says the theme of ‘Try One Thing’ is focused on people giving it a go and starting with one small step towards building their digital literacy.

“Our message to older people is that it is never too late to learn and it doesn’t have to be difficult,” Ms Berrigan says.

“Older Australians were born into a generation where being online wasn’t even a possibility, and people may not have had the opportunity to learn digital skills.

“You do get older people who say they don’t need to know about it, but once they take a step in that direction they realise it’s not too hard to learn about technology.”

Ms Berrigan says it is not uncommon for older people to be trying to engage with technology including in local libraries, community centres, and multicultural groups, and that this generation is keen to learn new skills.

It is important that older people who want to be involved in online activities can develop those skills in a safe way.

Digital awareness is increasing

According to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index: 2021, older Australians are becoming more digitally inclusive with the COVID-19 pandemic playing its part.

Social restrictions meant there was a need for increased online social interaction and there was an especially noticeable increase in digital uptake for people aged 75 and older.

But online security and privacy is one of the most pressing concerns for older people, with 43% of all Australians revealing they feel anxious about their online safety.

Ms Berrigan says education and awareness is the best way to keep yourself safe online, with resources available through the Government’s Be Connected e-safety website and at Get Online Week’s website.

You can also learn more about being careful of scams and phishing schemes in our article, ‘Being wary of scams and sharing your personal information‘.

“We know that people are anxious about getting online because there are scams,” she says.

“People will say they don’t want to get online or put their information out there. But the beauty about Get Online Week and learning through Be Connected is that it helps you find trusted sources of information.

“You can learn about safety and security online because that’s really important for people. Once you understand a few of the basic safety rules it releases the anxiety.”

Ms Berrigan mentions the recent Optus data breach as one incident that has heightened concerns about online safety for older people.

If you were impacted by the Optus breach, you can read about your options in our article ‘Optus Data Breach: How to update your information and protect yourself’.

Online education has social and work benefits

Online education is beneficial for older Australians who want to remain in the workforce or stay socially engaged with friends and family.

Ms Berrigan says improving your digital skills provides additional knowledge that can help you interact and participate with others in a safe and social way. It does not have to be complex either.

“Don’t be afraid, use your phone as a starting point and take a photo of yourself and send a photo to someone you know,” Ms Berrigan explains.

“If you incorporate those fun small things that people want to do every day like taking photos of themselves or making a video call, then it doesn’t make it about technology.

“It’s just about human beings wanting to participate in life.”

That knowledge can also help you remain a part of the workforce for longer, especially as an increasing number of jobs and volunteer roles require computer and digital literacy skills on a daily basis.

With Age Pension eligibility also rising to 67 from 1 July 2023, upskilling could provide much needed confidence, according to Ms Berrigan.

“Almost 90% of jobs will require digital skills by 2030 which is not very far away,” she says.

“For a lot of younger people, as well as older people, they have never been in jobs that require digital skills.

“If you have the basic digital skills it gives you the confidence to just go for a job, while we know a lot of older people are volunteering and understanding those skills gives you the confidence for volunteer roles as well as jobs.”

Get Online Week runs from 17-23 October with over 600 free events held by community community organisations. If you would like to learn more about digital literacy and improvise your online knowledge, you can visit the Get Online Week website to find a local event, or call 1300 795 897 for more information.

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