Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

Digital inclusion and the elderly population #Blogg100

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Photo: Kajsa Hartig.

The central organisation Uppsalas Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS) acts on behalf of 63 associations to represent and defend the interests of the senior citizens in Uppsala, Sweden. Uppsala is Sweden’s fourth city with its 200 000 inhabitants, 70 km north of the capital Stockholm.  UPS recently analyzed the report Digidel 2013 – Increased Digital Inclusion. Digidel 2013 was a campaign (2011–2013) to increase the part of the population actively using digital services. The campaign was formed by a network of NGOs, libraries, companies and authorities.

UPS’ findings and conclusions are relevant in many ways even if you are not working primarily with elderly people, but if you are about to implement digital tools in your organisation.

In Sweden, less than 10% of the population never use the internet. Unsurprisingly, most of these non-digital citizens are seniors. The reasons for elderly not to be online are many, from cognitive and physical difficulties to pure disinterest. Another major obstacle is to start learning how to use complex technical devices. The interesting question raised by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd is:

To what extent is this lack of IT-proficiency a problem for an elderly population who’s lived all their life offline?

Most of those without access to the Internet already feel they are missing out a lot, from opportunities to live a less isolated life to fully enjoying their democratic rights. It is a fact that most authorities in Sweden expect all citizens to be using their online services, which have silently replaced their traditional, offline ones. Being part of the online community can also lead to better healthcare as well as a sense of inclusion, networking with people in different communities, etc. The list of situations where offline seniors are missing out is already very long and it won’t stop growing. Even worse for these seniors the digitization of services are seen as improvement and progress by the society in general.

On a national level a direct consequence of the quasitotal absence of seniors in social media media is that they are not getting the attention that they deserve in broad cast media, especially during this years national elections.

One major issue when trying to get elderly people online is that they can’t be reached through usual training programs. They don’t see the benefits of using internet to the extent that they will want to overcome technological barriers. As Digidel states in their report:

”More than seventy percent of those not using the Internet in 2013 specify ’lack of interest’ as the main reason . It may also be that the Internet is not commonly used in the environment they live in. Just less than twenty percent say internet is too complicated. The rest thinks it is too expensive or that they are prevented from using internet by practical difficulties or disabilities.”

This report and the analysis made by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd shows that when reaching out to elderly people, the focus should be on making everyone understand the relevance of internet (including social media) in a person’s everyday life. There is a need for computer classes, but this is not enough to attract the quite large number of elders that lack interest for Internet and new media. To put it simply, technical training initiatives won’t reach their goals if the very purpose behind this training isn’t understood by participants. I believe this approach is applicable in any organisation when implementing digital tools and services.

I will return to the subject of digital inclusion and the relevance of social media and internet to individuals in an upcoming blog post.

This blog post was written i collaboration with Matthieu Hartig, communications strategist at Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS).

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Blog post 13/100 #Blogg100-challenge

One thought on “Digital inclusion and the elderly population #Blogg100

  1. Pingback: Download textbooks through iTunes – schools and ICT #Blogg100 | Kajsa Hartig

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