Older Brits Amongst Europe’s Most Web-Savvy

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Age UK’s myfriends online week shows older people the social benefits of being online.

The statistics, collated by Eurostat(1), reveal that 43% of people aged 55-74 in the UK use the Internet frequently compared to an EU average of 28%.

People aged 55-74 in the UK are amongst the most prevalent older Internet users in Europe and, according to Age UK, feel more connected to their loved ones because of it. The statistics come during Age UK’s myfriends online week 2011, which encourages older people to use the Internet to connect with friends and family.

The statistics, collated by Eurostat(1), reveal that 43% of people aged 55-74 in the UK use the Internet frequently compared to an EU average of 28%. The UK tops European heavyweights Germany and France, where 33% and 40% of that age group regularly use the Internet respectively. However, we are still behind Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden where over half of 55-74s regularly surf the Web.

The list below represents the percentage of people aged 55-74 who frequently use the Internet. The table shows the top 15 EU countries in rank order, as identified by Eurostat:

EU Rank – 2010:

EU average - 28%
1.    Luxembourg - 58%
2.    Norway - 58%
3.    Denmark - 55%
4.    Netherlands - 54%
5.    Sweden - 54%
6.    Finland - 47%
7.    United Kingdom - 43%
8.    France - 40%
9.    Belgium - 36%
10.    Germany - 33%
11.    Austria - 27%
12.    Estonia - 22%
13.    Hungary - 21%
14.    Slovenia - 20%
15.    Slovakia - 20%

Despite these positive statistics, six million people aged 65 and over in the UK have never been online(2). To enable more older people to access the Internet and enjoy its social benefits, such as keeping in contact with friends and family more easily, Age UK is this week running myfriends online week 2011 (21-27 March 2011). The Charity is calling on people with Internet skills to pledge to pass on their knowledge to an older friend, family member or neighbour who has never been online, or for older people to attend a local training event.

With nearly one million older people saying that they are often or always lonely(3), and over half (five million) of people aged 65+ saying that they consider the television as their main form of company(4), the Internet can be hugely important in allowing people to keep in contact with loved ones and helping to tackle feelings of isolation and loneliness.

New polling(5) commissioned by Age UK has shown that 63% of people aged 65 and over who use the Internet feel that since they have been online they have been able to keep in contact with friends and family more than before. The Charity also found that of those older people who do not use the Internet, nearly one in four (24%) feel that the Internet would be a useful way of keeping in contact with friends and family more easily, suggesting there is a growing awareness of the benefits that the Internet can bring.

Linda Robson, actress and Age UK ambassador, said: “It’s great to hear that older Brits are amongst those leading the way in Europe on Internet use. As a recent convert to the online world I know the fear that people might face when going online for the first time, but it really isn’t as scary as you think and the benefits are fantastic.

“That’s why it’s such a shame that millions of older people are still not online and missing out on everything the ‘net can offer, like keeping in contact with friends and family more easily. I’d urge anyone who enjoys making the most of the Internet to take the Age UK myfriends online week pledge and help teach someone who has never been online before to get involved!”

Helena Herklots, Services Director at Age UK, said: “Older Internet users are telling us that they are better connected to their loved ones because of the Internet, reinforcing that people of all ages can really benefit from being online. However, the challenge remains to enable the six million older people who have never been online before to use the Internet.

“To help get older people online, we need people of all ages who already use the Internet to pass on their knowledge to friends, family members and neighbours. If everyone helps one older person they know to get online, the UK’s older population could surf their way to the top of the European table, helping in the battle against social isolation along the way. As well as this, older people can get practical support and training by visiting their nearest myfriends online week event.”

Margaret Goodwin, 64 from Oxfordshire and the joint Age UK Internet Champion of the Year for 2011, said: “Having recently retired I was concerned that life might become lonely, however the Internet has ensured that this is not the case. I regularly use the Internet to keep in touch with friends and family around the world and have also got back in contact with family I had lost touch with. I’ve even tried Internet dating! If I can do it there is no reason why other people in later life can’t, so why not give it a go during myfriends online week?”

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