AGE members warn against growing digital exclusion

Telework, online classes, e-shopping, digital banking, instant messaging… The COVID-19 crisis has speeded up the digitalization of our society and an increasing number of people - of all ages - are becoming digitally involved. Yet, this fast digitalization is also pushing aside a growing number of people in preventing them to access essential services, as warn many older people’s organisations across Europe.

Love-hate relationship

Digimeter2020-coverIn Belgium, Vlaamse Ouderenraad points out the findings of a report on media ownership and use in Flanders (the 13th edition of Digimeter). The Flemish Council of the Elderlywarns against a widening gap between those who are digitally active and the growing group of people who are unable to do so or for whom it goes too fast.

  • 1 out of 4 survey respondents indicated that they do not feel comfortable with the sudden change to more digital and online applications.
  • Remarkably, this is even the case for 30% of young people and the over-65s.
  • Although the majority of the Flemish population has a positive attitude vis-à-vis technology, we are wrestling with a number of paradoxes: the advantages of online tools versus the dependency on our smartphone and social media, the availability of a wide range of news sources versus the dangers of disinformation, the ease of use of data-driven services versus the concern for our privacy, security and control over our personal data.

In the Netherlands, a survey carried out by the older people organisation KBO-PCOB finds that many older people do not want to be obliged on the Internet.

  • Nine out of ten internet-free (91%) and half (46%) of the online seniors agree are tired of being forced to do everything over the internet.
  • Almost all of them (98% offline senior, 94% online senior) think that companies and governments should always offer an alternative for people without the Internet.

SPFseniorerma-Erikson-comment-Dec20In Sweden, SPF Seniorerna was invited in December 2020 to comment the result of a survey by the Internet Foundation. Eva Eriksson, president of the organisation, stressed the role of digital tools in making our everyday life easier and alleviating loneliness. She also pointed out the work done by SPF during the pandemic to improve digital skills and participation. Yet:

“We must remember that everyone cannot or does not want to be digitally involved. They also have the right to take part in society”, highlighted Mrs Erikson. 

SPF Seniorerna therefore calls on the authorities to provide free education and digital equipment to digitally excluded people.

In Spain, UDP Mayores reports the findings of the 2nd “COVID Social Services Impact Monitor Report” and highlighted the digital divide, loneliness and social isolation of many older people as one of the biggest challenges facing institutions.

Growing financial exclusion

One of the biggest challenges faced by older people in times of rapid digitalisation is the accessibility of financial and banking services, as stressed by some of AGE members.

In Finland, the Board of the Finnish Pensions Association points out that, while digital payment methods have made everyday life easier for many, the increasing use of e-services is leaving some older citizens behind. Banking transactions between groups that are not used to e-services have been less accessible than before and are more expensive.

Bankomat-image-UDPIn the Netherlands, KBO-PCOB ask the banks to “Make the bank personal, set up local service points!". To reinforce their call, the Dutch senior organisation has prepared a pamphlet, containing five key needs of older people:

  1. Get personal contact,
  2. Be reachable,
  3. Keep the ability to pin and deposit,
  4. Be digitally nice, because not everyone is digitally proficient,
  5. Ensure a safe banking environment.

In Spain, UDP Mayores consider that pensioners face "Banking Abuses".

“Nobody cares that among current pensioners, there are many, too many, who are not familar with computer tools and depend on children, grandchildren and in many cases on people outside the family”, highlights UDP President Julio Méndez Menéndez de Llano in an opinion article

UDP Badajoz demands the maintenance of opening hours and branches of banking institutions to ensure accessibility of service to older people.

Also in Spain, the increased vulnerability of older people due to the lack of accessibility of digital services (including banking services), was the topic of a recent conference organized by FATEC. The discussions sought to better understand the current situation and challenges and reflect on what can be done to address them and improve access to new technologies.

In Belgium, Énéo launched the campaign “Banques : dehors les seniors ?” in September 2020 to raise awareness on the banking exclusion facing many older people.

Improving digital literacy

To address digital divide, improving digital literacy is key. Our members are well aware of this and many of them are providing digital training classes and materials.

  • In Finland, Eläkeliiton has been involved in a number of projects, activities and materials intended for media education professionals and older people.
  • In France, Old’Up has produced a training guide to help informal and professional carers train older people in using digital tablet.
  • In Germany, the Digital Compass is a network of 75 Internet pilot support locations where older people can meet and try out digital services. It is a joint project in which our German member, the Federal Association of Senior Citizens' Organisations (BAGSO), is involved.
  • In Greece, 50+ Hellas shares on its website digital educational material. The organisation also joined the “Knowledge Volunteers” project which organised digital trainings of older adults thanks to the recruitment of young volunteers.
  • In Spain, UDP Mayores is organizing basic digital classes for its members. The Spanish Confederation of Older People's Organisations CEOMA also organizes a cycle of webinars on teaching how to use technological tools to help reduce isolation and loneliness.


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Friday 11 June 2021
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