Many of the world’s elders avoid the internet due to lack of support

Grace Macej 23 Feb 2022

Our survey participants give multiple reasons for not using the internet, and the majority believes that they don’t need it.

We’ve previously told you about online scams targeting elders and how to protect yourself and your elder loved ones from tech support scams. How is it, then, that elders themselves feel about their relationship with the internet?

We recently conducted a global survey of nearly 3,000 people across the globe, and through our findings, a digital generation gap has been revealed: The proportion of internet non-users is highest among older generations. Nevertheless, it’s also elders who can greatly benefit from digital services — especially in the Covid era. Let’s explore how the digital freedom of elders can be improved and maintained.

While some elders reject the internet, others would take the plunge if they could get help from friends or family

Of the 2,700 people aged 55 and older* surveyed worldwide, 42% use the internet regularly, 31% use it occasionally, and 27% never use it. Half of our respondents are retired, and we’ve found that the proportion of people who don’t use the internet increases with age: While only 17% of people aged 55-60 do not use the internet, the proportion goes up to 39% among people aged 75 and over. 

The reasons why respondents don’t use the internet at all vary: 59% answered that they think they simply don’t need it, while 42% find it too complicated and 37% rely on family and friends if they need something done online. Furthermore, 36% shy away from using the internet because of digital threats. Another 36% feel too old for it, and 28% claim it’s too expensive, while 15% simply reject the internet altogether.

"The age group over 60 years old, in particular, struggles the most and, according to our survey, this applies equally to men and women. The challenges start with choosing the right devices and software. Properly configuring privacy settings, setting up devices and a Wi-Fi network are also insurmountable hurdles for many as well as ongoing maintenance," said Jaya Baloo, CISO at Avast.

With the right support, many older people would venture into the digital world

While 24% of the internet non-users who we surveyed can imagine using the internet, for 76%, it’s currently out of the question to ever go online. 43% percent of those who aren’t confident doing things online claim that it bothers them, and 41% would appreciate help from friends or family with online activities.

When it comes to security, roughly one out of three elders aren’t at all concerned. 27% are slightly concerned and 44% are afraid of cybercrime, with identity theft, data breaches, stolen passwords, malware (including ransomware) being the biggest concerns among elders.

"We were able to determine through our survey that there is a likely correlation between the amount of time people spend on the internet and their confidence in using it," Jaya Baloo continued. "In general, it does bother people that they feel a bit insecure and awkward using the internet and many also feel they are a burden to others if they have to ask them for help."

In order to participate in the digital world, elders can seek external help in addition to turning to family and friends. For example, adult education centers often offer beginners' courses for senior citizens. There are also many free internet meeting places in various cities as well as non-profit organizations, such as the National Council on Aging (NCOA) in the United States, that provide advice and support for elders when it comes to the internet.

Further reading: Protecting elders online: Q&A with NCOA's Ramsey Alwin

*At 46%, the largest group of the 2,700 people aged 55 and over surveyed worldwide live with a partner, 33% live with relatives under one roof, and 27% live on their own. The research institute YouGov conducted a telephone survey on behalf of Avast in September 2021 in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and Japan.

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