Tech savvy senior citizens are anything but 'left behind'

Tech savvy senior citizens are anything but 'left behind'


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TECH SAVVY: President of the Katherine Senior Citizens Association Lorna Riggs says she is confident using technology in her every day life.

TECH SAVVY: President of the Katherine Senior Citizens Association Lorna Riggs says she is confident using technology in her every day life.

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There may be negative stereotypes about older Australians and technology, but ask a senior citizen in Katherine if they check Facebook, and they will most likely say yes.

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There may be negative stereotypes about older Australians and technology, but ask a senior citizen in Katherine if they check Facebook, and they will most likely say yes.

While the majority still seek their news from hard copy papers, most are challenging the digital divide equipped with iPads, laptops and the latest phones.

New research released by National Seniors Australia, the peak advocacy body for older Australians, has found that seniors are far more tech savvy than we are led to believe.

"There are just too many blanket statements that are very negative about older people's skills, such as 'they're behind the times', 'they're digitally illiterate' or 'there is a digital divide between young and old'," National Seniors CEO, Professor John McCallum said.

Despite less services available to seniors in Katherine than their city counterparts, over half said they are comfortable using technology in their every day lives.

President of the Katherine Senior Citizens Association Lorna Riggs said she checks Facebook daily to keep up with friends and family.

And if she doesn't know the answer to a question, she's happy to do a Google search.

"It is all very convenient these days, and it is good to move with the times," she said.

"While we don't really need it for jobs like young people do, everything is online these days so it is almost a requirement."

At the senior's monthly meeting today, more than half rated themselves as 'good' technology users, and all would like the chance to learn more.

Del Harlan has taken matters into her own hands and is completing a tech course at the local library.

She said far too often young people swoop in to save the day, leaving seniors unable to navigate technology on their own.

"They show us very quickly, but they don't teach. Yes, they are happy to help, but if they let us do it, we might be able to learn it ourselves," she said.

Senior citizens in Katherine say their biggest challenge in keeping up with the times is in fact their own age.

"Our memory is something we are always struggling with," Shirley Ashworth said today at the Senior Citizens Association's monthly meeting.

"We are caught between a time we did it all ourselves and having everything done for you online. It is hard for in-between generations."

She said the internet is sometimes too far geared towards young people who are already in the know.

"There is not enough practical information," she said, "it is the jargon and the language they use these days."

Of course, not all seniors are thriving online, some are in fact dead against it.

Dorothy McKey said she has no need for it after a lifetime without it.

"There was life before the internet," she said.

"I have no technology, except for a geriatric phone."

Not only does she have young people around her to help, she said technology advances have made it impossible to keep up.

"It is far quicker for me to write things down," she said.

"I've got away with it for 90 years, I'm not going to start now."

National Seniors Australia conducted an online survey of more than 4,500 members, whose ages range from over 50 to those in their 90s in Australia, and found 70 per cent use an internet search engine everyday.

It also found 40 per cent use Facebook daily including close to 20 per cent of those aged 80 plus.

Professor McCallum highlighted the high levels of digital activity of those over 80 years old.

"You would expect that people who are 80 plus would be those left behind by these technologies," he said.

"Our research shows that over half those aged 80 plus used an internet search engine everyday and more than 50 per cent of these did online banking once a week if not daily.

"The message from this is, it is a good idea to be digitally literate before you get into your 80s so you can enjoy the ease of access to family, friends and finances."

However, there is a financial and social impact by not being skilled in digital technology, professor McCallum said.

"Those who have less skills are more likely to be victims of scams than those who are more skilled.

"They're also likely to find the costs of mobile and internet services a barrier to them using the internet and devices.

"What we are looking at here is digital literacy as the new factor in the accumulative disadvantage experienced by vulnerable older Australians."

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The story Tech savvy senior citizens are anything but 'left behind' first appeared on Katherine Times.

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