Digital inequality and the elderly: an age-wise digital divide (contents)
CAPCIT (2024) Digital inequality and the elderly: an age-wise digital divide (contents)
The digital divide affecting the elderly is very worrying. All available indicators in Catalonia show disadvantages starting from the age of 65 onwards. Moreover, there is also a pronounced digital divide among the elderly population as a whole: where data are available, the 75+ age cohort is significantly below the 65-74 age cohort. Specifically: • The connectivity infrastructure is considered to be more limited than that of the rest of the population. It is worse in rural areas, both in terms of fixed (fibre optic) and mobile (4G and 5G) networks, and they are comparatively less well connected than urban areas. In addition, single-person households, common in the case of elderly people, are the least connected to the Internet. • Older people are the ones who access and use the Internet the least. The access gap is gradually closing, but only in the younger cohort (65-74 years). • Internet activity is lower among older people, indicating less diversity and less advanced usage. • The indicator that approximates digital skills also shows a clear disadvantage in the 65-74 age cohort (no data is available for the 75+ age group). The phenomenon of the digital divide is multidimensional and it is necessary to take into account not only the access, but also the forms of use and the digital skills available to be able to take advantage of the Internet access with autonomy and obtain sufficiently inclusive results. The digital divide is cross-cutting, since digital, social and economic inequalities intersect with each other, conditioning the benefits that a person can get when using the Internet. The term socio-digital divide expands the concept of the digital divide to highlight that digital inequality is another form of socio-economic inequality. As such, the divide is more severe when people are older, have low levels of education, low levels of income or live in rural areas. The gender component is also relevant: older women face more disadvantages than older men. These digital exclusions have recently been exacerbated by the accelerated and hasty process of digitalisation in response to the restrictions on mobility and personal relationships associated with COVID-19. Public policies strive to close this gap by creating bridges so that the entire population is in a position to make the most of the Internet's potential, according to their priorities and values. In general, Catalonia, Spain and the EU share common objectives in terms of digital policies, such as the promotion of digital skills, the guarantee of access to connectivity and infrastructure, and the protection of digital rights. The joint vision of these measures, strategies, plans and proposed actions shows that the current main focus of attention is on the acquisition of digital capacities and skills by citizens. Although the focus is mainly on working people, interest in the digital inclusion of older people is finally increasing. As for older people and the digital sphere, we can detect a vicious circle: (a) data on the elderly population and digitalisation are limited; (b) older people do not participate in the design of digital products and services, and if they do, it is in a limited way; and (c) these inequalities are reinforced by stereotypes about the elderly, making the digitalisation of these people a greater challenge. This is not only because of a lack of skills, but because they are not considered to the same extent as other younger populations. The result of this vicious circle is a specific form of age discrimination called digital ageism, which reinforces the dynamics of digital exclusion of the elderly. Lastly, a total of 12 recommendations are proposed to reduce the digital divide and promote the digital inclusion of the elderly in Catalonia. These include promoting training and information programmes, using unified instruments to measure the digital divide and digital skills, encouraging the creation of advisory programmes and support networks, and developing simple and quality digital services adapted to the needs of all strata of the population. These accessible services, which must follow universal design parameters, are essential in both the public and private spheres. Finally, it also emphasises the importance of maintaining analogue care channels to ensure access to essential services.
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policy brief
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Advisory Board of the Parliament of Catalonia for Science and Technology (CAPCIT)