Digital Fitness – Seniors are slowly catching up
Booking your vacation online, making online money transfers, and communicating by smartphone – all of this is normal for most people today. So it is little surprise that the older generation is now starting to get involved in the digital world too.1
Above all else, it is the communication factor that is moving more and more over 50s to venture into the digital world.2 Grandma and grandpa do not want to miss out on the WhatsApp family group in which pictures are shared and meetings planned. Seniors are showing interest in digital media. But is this reflected in their user behavior?
Age gap in the digital world
Digitalization undoubtedly takes up a large and important part of our lives. For this reason participating in society requires that all people have equal access to digital media and are able to use them competently.3 It is especially important for older people not to miss out as these technologies can make their everyday lives a great deal easier. However, studies have shown that up to now the over 50s have often been left behind by digitalization – despite increasing interest in digital products. The digital age gap between young and old is thus still wide. While for 77% of 14 to 29-year olds, digital technologies have a great or rather great significance, for people over 65 it is only about 19%.4
Uncertainty and lack of programs
Older people in particular are often afraid of the digital world. Where digital natives try out new technologies without fear, the older generations show doubt and reserve. The fear of doing something wrong is great.5 This does not mean that seniors reject digital products on principle. Quite the contrary. In many cases there is simply a lack of programs aimed at slowly introducing them to digital technology.6
How to get the over 50s into digital shape
A research project in North-Rhine Westphalia's Elsoff shows how older people could be introduced to new technology. In addition to regular workshops for seniors, the program tested online training software and online religious services. Sweden is also getting older generations in digital shape with some innovative methods: in unique courses, refugees explain the digital world to seniors. A win-win situation – since refugees have often not completely mastered the language, they speak comparatively slowly, helping their older audience understand the content better. The courses also help refugees learn the language of the country faster and integrate better.7 These are only two of many examples: more and more original approaches are popping up across Europe to familiarize older generations with the digital world.