Digital divide, seniors locked out of essential services

Seniors are missing out on access to online banking, public safety alerts and essential government services because they don’t know how to use the latest digital media platforms, a new survey has found.


YourLink, an organisation that teaches older Australians digital skills, helps connect them with online services and communities, and build digital confidence through a training program run in partnership with aged care providers.


With COVID-19 driving so many services exclusively online, YourLink surveyed 80 of its clients to find out which services seniors were least able to access digitally.


“There’s a basic assumption of digital access and ability required to utilise these essential services online, but without a smart device, the knowledge to use it or the ability to afford one, seniors are being left behind,” explained Richard Scenna, Director and Co-Founder of YourLink.


“This leaves a large proportion of our community cut off from crucial services, such as those provided by government agencies,” he added.


The findings are detailed in YourLInk’s report Despite good intentions, seniors are left behind with digital progress.


The big picture

The survey revealed that 78 per cent struggled to access government services online, closely followed by finance and banking at 72 per cent. Public safety information such as the Fires Near Me and COVID-19 contact tracing apps came in at 66 per cent.


“Providers of these services need to be alert to the exclusion they are creating, despite their best intentions,” Mr Scenna said.


“One size doesn’t fit all. It’s so important that deployment strategies for online services include greater support for seniors to access them.”


Also deemed difficult to access were utilities such as gas, electricity and telephone, and to a lesser extent, health and wellbeing, superannuation and travel services.

Aged care providers bridging the gap

The overwhelming majority – 93 per cent – said that aged care providers could help connect seniors with digital access and skills. Mr Scenna says this is exactly what YourLink delivers.


“It’s a solvable problem,” he said. “We work with providers and seniors every day. Our seniors love to learn – and once they have the devices in their hands and are provided with some training to help them make the most of them, there’s no stopping them.”


“Our survey findings are a reminder that as progress rolls on, the vulnerable in our society will become even more isolated unless we are alert to their needs and design for them,” Mr Scenna added.


17 December 2020.