Bridging the digital gap among the elderly
The ever increasing presence of technology in today’s modern world is not only leading to a digital gap between generations, which is becoming ever more visible, but also among the elderly. There are many elderly persons in Malta who have not yet accepted mobile phones, tablets and other new services into their lives.
The issue is that a high percentage of those aged over 55 have never logged onto the internet and, thus, this section of the population is not benefiting from some of the advantages offered by technology and the internet.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) should not be considered a hindrance to productive old age. ICT is simply a tool that helps the elderly to be more productive and to increase their quality of life. ICT can also help the elderly be more socially active.
Local Councils and other organisations in fact organise basic courses on the use of the computer and the internet. Attendance varies among towns and villages; some places report that the elderly do attend some courses while others struggle to put together a class of older people.
On the other hand, there is a percentage of elderly who refuse to use modern technological services. One still finds elderly people who prefer to physically go to the bank to withdraw or deposit money instead of use the ATM. One also finds elderly people who use the mobile phone to make and receive calls but they will not send an SMS because they do not know how to do it or refuse to do it.
Those elderly people who have embraced the use of technology are better informed about what is happening in society and are in contact with others. In short, these elderly people feel better and have a more enhanced quality of life. They are watching the news over the internet, sending emails, applying for health services, paying bills online and communicating over social media.
The challenge is reaching those elderly who are semi-literate and those who fear technology to make the leap and, at least, learn how to use the basic technological tools that are so convenient in today’s fast paced world.