[Night Eye Care]Closing the Digital Divide, Reducing Isolation and Helping the Elderly Use Technology
(Hong Kong News) As the elderly population increases, how to help the elderly enjoy the benefits of technological advancement instead of being marginalized and isolated in the digital wave is an important part of realizing a longevity society.
Only 70% of people over 65 have access to the Internet
The differences in the use of information technology by different groups are collectively referred to as the “digital divide”. The digital divide has 3 dimensions:
◆Tier 1 refers to differences in Internet coverage, smart device ownership, and IT usage
◆Tier 2 refers to differences in digital skills
◆Tier 3 refers to the difference in the degree of benefit from the development of digital technology
Young people in their 20s and 30s are born when the Internet is already ubiquitous, so they are called the “natives of the digital world”. For seniors, the internet and smart devices are relatively new. Therefore, there is a digital divide between the young and the old at the above three levels.
First/young people have a higher usage rate of smart devices. According to data released by the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Government in May 2022, although the proportion of people over the age of 65 using the Internet has increased (70%), compared with other age groups, including people aged 10 to under 45 (99.8%) and 45 to Compared with those aged 64 (98.7%), there is still a big gap.
Second/Most young people have higher skills and proficiency in using IT than older people, and they have a higher ability to adapt and learn smart new technology, so their use is more in-depth and diverse.
According to the data released by the Census and Statistics Department in April 2021, only 9.4% of people aged 65 and above have used electronic payment functions in the past 12 months, which is far lower than that of younger groups (15-24 years old: 62.7%; 25-44 years old: 76.0%, 45 to 64 years old: 46.1%).
Functional Complexity Enhances Frustration
The third/younger group is more likely to benefit from the wave of technological development. Compared with the younger group, there are fewer elderly people who can handle the complex functions of the Internet (social entertainment, information search, learning, online shopping, online banking, etc.). Elderly people with relatively weak digital skills are not only unable to timely and fully enjoy the multiple conveniences brought by the Internet; on the contrary, the complexity of using many functions may cause them frustration.
In order to bridge the age digital divide, the government, many social enterprises and NGOs have launched many projects to enhance the digital skills of the elderly. While affirming these measures, there are at least two questions worth thinking about:
First/Can the promotion and implementation of these projects keep up with the rapid progress of science and technology? Is the age digital divide getting bigger?
Second/ Are the programs successful in targeting those most vulnerable elders? At present, most of the participants in digital skills training services for the elderly already have smart devices and a certain basis for using them. Elderly people without smart devices and with the weakest digital skills are often excluded, while they are the groups most in need of digital technology, such as the elderly with low socio-economic level or limited mobility. It is imminent to use the power of science and technology to improve the quality of life of these vulnerable elders.
No smart devices are rejected
On the other hand, they can use technology to interact more closely with family members and friends who live apart; on the other hand, they can use the Internet to handle daily things, such as online shopping, electronic payment, online medical services, online workshops and community entertainment activities, etc. , to make up for travel inconvenience caused by physical condition.
Overall, smart technology can enable the elderly to maintain more connections with the outside world and reduce feelings of social isolation.
To enhance the ability to use products should enhance age-friendliness
The disadvantages of the elderly in using technology are affected by many factors, such as lack of hardware equipment, insufficient economic and social capital, psychological fear and anxiety about technology, etc.
The government should take a multi-pronged approach, focus on the most vulnerable elderly groups, increase the coverage of smart devices, use family and community resources to provide digital skills training, and improve their acceptance and ability to use technology.
Consider diverse individual needs
More importantly, in addition to helping the elderly adapt to existing technology, it is necessary to strengthen the “age-friendliness” of smart technology.
At present, the design of technological products often only targets young people, ignoring that the elderly are also an important part of society.
Although the development of science and technology is the general trend, the design of future smart products must consider the usage habits of different social groups, increase the ease of use of products, and consider the diverse needs and adaptability of individuals in order to achieve true “digital inclusion” (digital inclusion) .
In Hong Kong, both adults and children are very busy every day, and sometimes it is difficult to find time to meet the elders. While it can’t completely replace the intimacy that comes with face-to-face, technology can still increase family connections.
In addition to sending text messages and video calls to send greetings to family and friends who cannot meet in person, family members can play simple interactive games, travel online, or make family e-cards and holiday blessing emoji through the Internet to increase the depth of interaction.
And community organizations can also use the power of technology to increase companionship and reduce loneliness for the elderly who live alone or whose children live abroad. The younger generation helps the elders at home and in the community to explore the charm and possibility of technology, which can not only enhance the elders’ understanding of digital technology, reduce the digital divide, but also deepen the relationship between the two generations and add warmth.
Text Li Jia (Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)