The way that older people use technology is rapidly evolving, and has been for a number of years. A recent evidence-based review of technology use amongst older people was conducted by Age UK, and amongst many other findings, the review noted that over 65s were using the internet to find solutions to help them stay independent in their own homes. This included, but was not limited to, assistance with everyday tasks compensating for lost physical and cognitive function. On top of this, the study found that this same age group are increasingly using the internet in a similar way to younger generations, such as accessing information, advice and cheaper goods and services.
So, how can this use of technology impact the lives of older people? Some of the most obvious and immediate effects are for those with reduced mobility, as the internet provides access to nearly every service from garden maintenance, to grocery shopping and household goods without having to leave your home. For younger generations, this is simply a matter of convenience, but for seniors it can provide a real lifeline that they wouldn’t otherwise have. From a policy perspective though, Age UK outlines that more government funding is needed for the use of technology in enhancing at-home social care for people with advanced health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Technology use amongst over 65s has not only positively impacted physical health, but mental health too. The use of email is already popular with this age group, but in recent years there has been a sharp increase in the use of social media networks among older citizens. Used in conjunction with the telephone, this can be a great way for older people to keep in contact with relatives, share photos and view memories. The overall effect of this is a reduction in isolation and loneliness. Feelings of isolation have been proven to exacerbate or increase the risk of developing serious physical health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. In turn, this reduces the strain on health services and benefits society as a whole. In terms of the future of technology use among seniors, the pattern both of access and use is changing appreciably year by year. Many of those reaching retirement age now are more likely to have used information and contact technology as part of their jobs, and it is expected that the current 55-65 age group will use the internet at the highest rate to date once they move into the 65+ bracket. With the use of the internet becoming all-pervasive in nearly every area of modern life, it is certain that its use among seniors will eventually become universal.