The high cost of data, inadequate digital skills as well as several other key barriers and challenges prevent South African 50-plussers from keeping up to date with the world of technology.
“There has been a massive rise in new technologies worldwide in recent years” said Lynda Smith, Managing Director at 50Plus-Skills. “Technologies that benefit healthy ageing and longevity. Technologies that enable people to live healthier and fulfilling lives. Technologies that keep people physically active online, detect falls and diseases early on, manage disease conditions, reduce social isolation, and enable communication between families. Technologies that facilitate online banking, shopping, travel, and telehealth”.
To fully participate in society, one must master these technologies. These technologies should be inclusive and benefit all. But, sadly, they don’t. The majority of South African seniors are not enjoying the benefit of these new technologies. They are not at ease with these new technologies, can’t afford to be online and are experiencing a plethora of challenges and barriers.
If we don’t step in now and take South African senior citizens into consideration when it comes to the online space, we run the risk of shutting seniors out from society and worsening an already very worrying trend of isolation and loneliness amongst the elderly.
50Plus-Skills, You’ve Earned It and the Pensioner Forum recently collaborated and engaged with South African 50-plussers to get a sense of the need of this age group, when it comes to technology.
“Technology is constantly changing the way we communicate and engage” said Marilyn Hallett, Director: You’ve Earned It, the digital media platform for 60-plussers. “This last year alone, during a pandemic like no other, we have seen many 50-plussers being forced to adopt technology tools that has kept many of us engaged, connected, and informed. Older adults who had Wi-Fi, were digitally literate prior to the pandemic and had the right devices were better positioned to deal with lockdown. But what about those who are not digitally literate? What about those who can’t afford Wi-Fi or who don’t have a computer? Banks, retail outlets, the health sector – all have gone online and are waiting for no-one. Despite being digitally literate (to a point), many 50-plussers feel as though they have been left behind and cite cost, fear, lack of self-confidence, knowledge gaps, privacy concerns and much more as the top reasons for their hesitancy to adopt technology”.
Three 50-Plus platforms collaborated in a study, the purpose of which was to explore where this age group sit when it comes to digital literacy skills and the digital divide. The “Digital Divide” referring to the gap between 50-plussers, their ability to access information and communication technologies and their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.
The study included nearly 700 across the three platforms – 50Plus-Skills, You’ve Earned It and the Pensioner Forum. It was conducted in April and May 2021. An online discussion (https://youtu.be/8vjKgl2tbhg), surveys, and polls were held. All these respondents are digitally literate, to a point.
The key barriers and challenges across all platforms
Lack of self-confidence and fear
Participants in all groups, despite being digitally literate, cannot keep up to date with the speed and pace of updates in technology. Constant change brings about a feeling of being somewhat redundant in a technological world. Technology is not being designed with the older person in mind.
A lack of self-confidence and the fear of doing “something wrong is a primary barrier and challenge. Fear of:
Data is prohibitively expensive.
Across the board, but more pronounced in the lower LSM groups, is the need for cheaper data rates. Pensioners simply do not have the budget to spend on data. Most respondents are calling for more cost-effective data. In addition, pensioners cannot understand why data must expire, and many would like to receive a free lifeline data package monthly.
Learning – devices, courses
There is a general and genuine interest in needing and wanting to learn more and integrating technology into one’s life. 50-plussers wish:
Specific mention was made of learning:
Tech support assistance from corporates and businesses
It was felt that corporates and businesses do not support older adults. There was a cry for tech support call lines tailored to older adults less familiar with the internet. 50-plussers would like to have access to a person who can assist them and point them in the right direction. Some banks and medical aid schemes have implemented such services, but there was a consensus that this kind of assistance should be offered across the board.
Worldwide, governments are recognizing the need to provide seniors with tech assistance.
Disconnected 50-plussers in South Africa need an enabling environment to develop their digital literacy skills through formal and informal programmes. They need the opportunity to access the internet and learn new skills to carry out their day-to-day life. This would be life-changing for them. Government and the industry leaders should help 50-plussers join the world of technology.
Issued on behalf of: You’ve Earned It, 50Plus-Skills and Pensioner Forum
Enquiries: Marilyn Hallett
Director: You’ve Earned It, the digital media platform for SA 60-plussers
Tel: 021 715 7805 / Cell: 076 1946 033
Cell: 082 490 2822