3.8million older people in Britain today have never used the internet: Many of us are so used to online connections that we are in danger of forgetting how fast the technological developments have been.
Latest AgeUK research is a stark reminder that many older people face damaging discrimination: Government must make sure that those who have been left behind by online advances are not marginalised or unfairly penalised just because they grew up in an earlier age.
Government itself is digitally discriminating against older people in poverty: Most worryingly, AgeUK finds local Governments are denying benefits to those who have never learned to use computers leaving many of them in poverty.
Many elderly people cannot reasonably be expected to master online transactions at this stage of their lives: Having never learned to handle technology, often living alone and with a disability, they cannot complete online application forms and may never be able to claim. Yet receipt of Housing and Council Tax benefits can be a lifeline if they are struggling to make ends meet.
Many may live for another 20 or more years: This means proper and fair arrangements for claiming non-digitally – by post, on the phone or face to face – are urgently needed to allow them to receive their entitlements now and for the future.
Many elderly people have nobody to help them fill in online forms, or are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help: So they go without. Of course, Britain needs to be a modern technologically advanced society, but not at the expense of older generations.
Digital discrimination against older people extends well beyond local Government: In addition to being unable to claim benefits, millions of older people lose out in other ways, such as being denied the best interest rates on savings accounts, or being unable to shop around for more competitive insurance quotes available online.
Older people deserve to be treated with more respect and dignity, making some allowances for their life chances: Neither businesses, nor Government itself, should be allowed to take unfair advantage of older people’s lack of modern technology skills. Digital disadvantage is another form of age discrimination and a decent society should ensure its senior citizens are not marginalised or taken unfair advantage of in this way.