With an increasingly ageing population, the UK could find that many older people are cut off from all sorts of services because they are not using the internet. This new research is a move by the Consumer Panel to understand what makes some older people use communications technologies, and what the barriers are for those who do not.

The UK Government has just committed to solve the gap in Internet usage by 2010 for groups at risk of exclusion such as older people.

Key findings

Attitudes towards Internet access are more complex and varied than anticipated. The research revealed four distinct attitudinal groups:

Absorbers had learnt to use computers at work and are now part of the digital age.

The diverse range of self-starters, who had no training at work, demonstrated that factors such as age, income, location and health did not appear to be barriers to take-up.

Non-users were largely consistent in the reasons they gave for not using the Internet: many were afraid of the unknown, of their ability, of breaking the PC, or of appearing foolish. The majority of non-users are the ‘disengaged’, and they showed an unexpected interest in going online. The minority, the ‘rejecters’, from busy grandmothers to contented hobbyists, saw no benefit in using the internet.