Use of digital media and communications by senior Australians



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Use of digital media and communications by senior Australians

© Commonwealth of Australia 2009

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Manager, Communications and Publishing, Australian Communications and Media Authority, PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010.

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Contents


OLDER users of the internet 1

What older Australians use the internet for 2

Few older Australians use social networking sites 3

Older Australians use of the internet to access medical information 4

Kuhn and Al., What Types of Difficulties do Seniors Encounter When Using the Internet to Make Health Care Decisions? Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting Proceedings, 53rd meeting, October 2007, Maryland USA. Aging , pp. 11-14(4) 4

Drivers and barriers to older Australians’ connectedness 4

australians’ attitudes and primary concerns about internet 6

Internet impact on Australians’ lives 6

Keeping up with technology changes 7

Awareness of new technologies 8

Security 8

internet and technical competencies 9

Australians internet competency (self-assessed) 9

Internet competency by older Australians (self-assessed) 10

The importance of informal learning for older Australians 11

internet and other media 12

Mobile phone use 13


OLDER users of the internet

This short paper provides a collection of information on use of digital media and communications by older Australians based on various sources.

The full list of sources is available for further reference under Key sources of research related to digital media literacy in Australia.

Older Australians (aged 65 years and over) are less connected, light users of the internet, and use the internet for different purposes than younger age groups.



Source: Sensis Consumer report, mid-2008 (n=1,500 for 14+ years)

In mid-2008, older Australians reported below average use of the internet. More than half (56 per cent) of survey respondents aged over 65 used the internet in the past 12 months, compared with 89 per cent on average, and much higher levels of use reported by younger age groups.

Older age groups were also more likely to be ‘light’ users of the internet: 43 per cent of internet users aged 65+ reported using the internet for less than 9 hours per week (defined as ‘light’ use of the internet). Almost a quarter of older internet users (23 per cent) were heavy internet users at more than 21 hours per week.

In contrast, young internet users aged 18-24 were most likely to be heavy users of the internet: 42 per cent of 18-24s reported using the internet for more than 21 hours a week.



Participation in internet use by age group (% people)

Source: Nielsen Panorama Survey, April 2007-March 2008 (n=21,570 for 14+ years age)





What older Australians use the internet for

Figures from Nielsen Panorama show that older Australians are active online users, in many areas undertaking the same kinds and range of activities as the total population.

While certain internet activities reveal similar levels of use for younger and older Australians (e.g. e-mail). Older Australians used email to stay in touch with family and friends, while instant messaging was particularly popular among younger Australians to communicate: 60 per cent of 16-29 year olds used instant messaging compared with 24 per cent 50+ year old (Nielsen Online 2007).

Some internet activities were more popular with older internet users. Popular activities for users aged 65+ year olds were checking accounts, paying bills and accessing news and current affairs. The next figure below reveals differences in use of services by older Australians compared with the total for Australians aged 14+ years.

Activities that older users were more likely to do than the average adult population (14+ years) were using the internet to access travel information or health and medical information (46 per cent of older internet users compared with 36 per cent).

Activities that older users were less likely to do than total adults 14+ years were general surfing (51 per cent compared with 70 per cent for 14+ years), downloading files or pictures (57 per cent compared with 66 per cent on average), playing games (40 per cent compared with 48 per cent on average).

Source: Nielsen Panorama Survey, April 2007-March 2008 (n=21,570 for 14+ years age)

Few older Australians use social networking sites

In mid-2008, four per cent of Australians 65+ years reported using a social networking site in the past 12 months.

Source: Sensis Consumer Report, mid-2008 (n=1,500 for 14+ years)

This compared with 91 per cent of 14-17 year olds reporting use of social networking sites in the past 12 months.

Older Australians use of the internet to access medical information

Forty-six per cent of older internet users accessed information on health-related topics and services (Nielsen Panorama Survey, April 2007-March 2008).

Use of the internet by older people to access health and medical information has been identified as presenting some risks that might require further research to inform policy developments. Research conducted overseas indicates that older users of the internet make errors and experience problems with searches and the usability of the websites they access.

For example, a small study was conducted with adults aged 50-85 years (n=40 community dwellers) to understand how they use the Internet to make choices related to Medicare services. The results indicated that, although most of the participants were able to find the needed information, many of them made errors, used inefficient search strategies, and encountered search problems. Furthermore, most of the respondents indicated problems with usability and were frustrated interacting with the website (Kuhn et al. 2007)1.

Drivers and barriers to older Australians’ connectedness

Recent research by the Consumers' Telecommunications Network (CTN) provides insights about the motivations of older Australians in adopting new means of communications.

For older Australians, the main drivers for adopting new means of communications are to ensure connectivity with family, and stay involved with work once they leave the workplace (CTN 2008).

Main barriers for seniors’ adoption of new communications services are affordability, absence of ergonomically designed phones - e.g. focus group participants mentioned that such phones exist in Europe, and lack of a user-friendly manual and instructions (CTN 2008).

Drivers and difficulties experienced by older users re: new technologies

Drivers

Barriers

removes feelings of isolation’, being able to communicate with family overseas, maintain daily contact with relative in time of sickness or adversity

  • Ability to stay involved in work




  • Affordability

broadband too expensive for low income users’, mobile phones and broadband expensive for pensioners’, ‘mobile phones’ bills can get too expensive’

  • Ergonomically designed phones

I don’t want ‘all singing and dancing phone, I want a simple phone to send a message/receive a message/clear screen/large numbers’, ‘it must be easy to use with no extras, mobile phones with numbers large enough to read’.

  • User friendly manuals and instructions

a detailed instruction manual that assumes I have never used any model of the particular brand before’, ‘simple phrased handbooks, in print with a lot of diagrams’, ‘in plain language’

  • Access to training to increase skills and confidence

training of up to date technology’, information and tuition geared toward the elderly’, ‘free training’; ‘help services’

Source: adapted from findings in Understanding Personal Connectedness, CTN presentation at the Communications Policy and Research Forum, Tuesday 30 September 2008, http://www.networkinsight.org/verve/_resources/CPRF08_Program_110808_.pdf

australians’ attitudes and primary concerns about internet

Overall, Australians perceive the internet as having a positive impact on their life. However, various sources identify particular concerns about internet use, ability to keep up with technological changes, security, and competencies in using the internet.

Internet impact on Australians’ lives

ACMA 2008 research indicates that Australians generally have positive attitudes toward the internet.

Source: ACMA Consumer Survey, June 2008 (n=1,637 18+ years)

Younger people found the impact of the internet on life more positive than older age groups: 79 per cent of Australians under 45 years indicated that the internet had a mostly or entirely positive impact on their lives compared with 67 per cent of those aged between 45-64 years old, and 38 per cent of those aged 65 years and over.

Keeping up with technology changes

Two thirds of Australians found it difficult to keep up with technological changes. When asked about their attitudes towards the internet (Roy Morgan Single Source survey January to December 2007), 66 per cent of the Australian population aged 14+ years agreed with the statement ‘I find the technology is changing so fast, it’s difficult to keep up with it.’ (Roy Morgan Single Source).

In addition, half of the Australians surveyed aged 14+ years (51 per cent) said they ‘try to keep up with technology’. The figure below shows that older age groups and females were least likely to ‘try to keep up with technology’ (44 per cent and 45 per cent respectively) than other age groups and males.



Source: Nielsen Panorama Survey, April 2007-March 2008 (n=11,372 for 14+ years age)

Awareness of new technologies

In 2007, there were lower levels of awareness of various new technologies by females and older Australians aged 50 years and over (figure below).

Source: Nielsen Online Advertising Effectiveness Report, March 2007

Security

Information from qualitative research (Ipsos Mackay, Being Online, August 2008) and quantitative research (Sensis Consumer and Business reports) indicates that Australians have certain reservations about financial security and use of their personal financial information online.

The Sensis Consumer Report 2008 on Australians’ top concerns indicates that:


  • Australians aged from 50 to 64 were more likely than other age groups to be concerned with internet security.

  • Women were also more concerned about internet security than men.

The Ipsos Mackay report Being Online (August 2008) indicates that while Australians are enjoying the online retail environment, they have reservations about their financial security and the use of their personal financial information online.

internet and technical competencies

Australians internet competency (self-assessed)

Almost six in ten Australians aged 18 years and over (59 per cent) self-assessed their level of internet competency as ‘above average’ or ‘somewhat above average’. One in ten said ‘very much above average’, and a quarter assessed their internet competency as insufficient (either ‘somewhat below’ or ‘very much below’ average).




Source: ACMA Consumer Survey, June 2008 (n=1,637 18+ years)

Internet competency by older Australians (self-assessed)

More than half of respondents over 65 years felt their competency levels were below average. Ten per cent of those over 65 rated their internet competency as above average, compared with 44 per cent of those aged under 35 years.

Source: ACMA Consumer Survey, June 2008 (n=1,637 18+ years)

The importance of informal learning for older Australians

Research commissioned by ACMA indicates that a large proportion of adult Australian internet users are self-taught (ACMA Consumer Survey 2008). Informal learning happens either by oneself (self-taught), from family and friends, and/or at work.

Older Australians who get involved in learning were more likely to learn informally: 64 per cent of 60-64 year olds participated in informal learning. Younger age groups (25-29s and 30-34 year olds) were more likely to be involved in formal learning.

Source: ABS, Adult Learning Australia, 2006-2007, Cat no 4229.0)


Those who did not get involved in adult learning were more likely to be in older age groups: 34 per cent of 60-64 year olds did not participate in any learning compared to 21 per cent on average for 25-64 year olds.
Informal learning has the advantage over other forms of learning as being flexible and relatively cheap.

internet and other media

Older people tended to remain more loyal to traditional media platforms such as TV, radio and print, although their online usage has displaced some of the time spent using traditional media.

Older Australians spent more time watching TV or listening to radio, whereas younger Australians spent more time using a mobile phone, listening to online radio or MP3s.

Source: Nielsen Online, Advertising Effectiveness Report, 2007

Mobile phone use

Older Australians were almost as likely to own a mobile phone as the total population. While 92 per cent of all Australians used a mobile phone, 87 per cent of 55+ and 84 per cent of 65+ year olds also reported using a mobile phone.

Of those who reported using a mobile phone, by far the most prevalent use after voice calls was text messaging. Older Australians reported less use of additional mobile phone features (e.g. 3G applications) than the total population.



Source: Nielsen Panorama Survey, April 2007-March 2008 (n=11,372 for 14+ years age)



1 Kuhn and Al., What Types of Difficulties do Seniors Encounter When Using the Internet to Make Health Care Decisions? Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting Proceedings, 53rd meeting, October 2007, Maryland USA. Aging , pp. 11-14(4)



April 2016


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