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More than 50% of over 70s are spending more time online during coronavirus isolation

With the provisional close of the hospitality, retail and travel industries, and congested supermarkets with queues out the door; the over 70s are relying on other means to keep their day running effectively.

We wanted to uncover whether there had been any positive outcomes from the pandemic, amid all the negative news. We conducted a study to determine whether the COVID-19 enforced social distancing and self-isolation has encouraged over 70s to embrace online technology.

Have more over 70s embraced online services?

The 16-24 age range spend an average of 32 hours a week online, compared to seniors who are typically online for around 15 hours a week. Ofcom’s research found that the older generation are more connected than ever, but still spend less than half the amount of time online than young people.

We questioned a number of over 70s on their current online activity. 96% of those interviewed had previously used online services and 51% say that their online activity has increased since the pandemic.

Most of our interviewees voiced similar difficulties they’re facing in insolation, including contact with their family and friends, and undertaking everyday tasks. A clear increase in online activity has highlighted how the requirement for these services has impacted the over 70s and become essential during these uncertain times.

86% of over 70s likely to continue online shopping

There has been a surge in online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic – with restrictions in place and empty shelves at the supermarket, most people have resorted to filling their basket online.

We research found that 51% of the over 70’s interviewed feel confident when it comes to using online shopping services. ­Val Readman from York said that the speed of deliveries is one of the positives of online shopping.

“It was my granddaughter’s birthday, so I placed an order online one evening and it came by post the next morning!”

A confident approach to shopping has revealed that savvy seniors are embracing these online services, with 86% likely to continue using online shopping once the pandemic settles. Val commented on how online shopping will also save her money:

“I will probably use online services more once this is over, and I will certainly do an online shop from now on. It’s probably worked out cheaper for us too; when you go to the supermarket yourself, there’s a tendency to buy more. With an online shop, when you’ve done it – that’s it and that’s what is coming.”

47% feel confident in using video calling software

The number of over 70s with a social media account increased from 13% in 2012 to 41% in 2016. We found that 43% of their interviewees use social media as part of their online landscape.

Social media has become a regular day to day activity and an important key in keeping touch with family members during the isolation period. A report conducted by Age UK found that there are around 1.4 million chronically lonely over 50s, which means that communication is more important than ever.

Despite the number of over 70s with a social media account, research has uncovered that 44% feel very unconfident on social media. While seniors do have some social media accounts, they admit that they are only active so they can stay connected with family and friends.

During the lockdown, there has been a surge in demand for video calling software such as Zoom and Houseparty. Our study found that 39% of the interviewees use video calling and 47% feel confident in this software. This demonstrates an increase in digital awareness and the ever-changing online landscape, to avoid being detached from face-to-face communication during quarantine. Val mentioned the benefits that online services are having on her business:

“I’m a retired midwife and I teach hypnobirthing. I normally run courses from my home; however, I’ve had to adapt to do the courses online. I ran a single session on WhatsApp video call, and I will be running a group session on Zoom.”

Val continued: “My yoga teacher held a class on Zoom – she’s also been advising me on how to set it up, so I can do it for my hypnobirthing business.”

Will this become the norm for seniors?

In the same way that social media is an integral part of the day for the younger generation, it has become a pastime for seniors as their online activity appears to be on the rise. We found that 35% of those interviewed are very likely to continue using social media once the isolation period is over.

This outcome reveals that despite a lack of confidence in using social media, over a third of over 70s will continue to use it. Despite being pushed out of their comfort zone, it’s undoubtedly emphasised how important it is to remain in contact, as well as staying up to date with how the modern world uses the internet.

As a result, 86% of the over 70s are now more likely to consume news through online platforms, commenting on the availability of information and how it’s immediately accessible, which has broader coverage than that of regular news outlets.

As speculation surrounding coronavirus continues, online shopping could become the norm for over 70s, with 30% already feeling very confident in using the service and over 80% of the interviewees are likely to continue shopping online.

A final piece of advice from one of our interviewees stressed how important online technology can be for the over 70s: “People of my age need to use online services – or they will simply be left behind.”

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