Modern technology gives us many things.

Older Australians are using more tech but are still struggling to keep up

Older Australians are a lot more tech savvy nowadays yet nearly half of senior users say digital technologies needs to be designed to better suit senior users, according to a report from National Seniors Australia.

During the COVID pandemic, older Australians were forced to adopt new technologies and methods including adopting streaming services, moving into digital banking, video calling and using apps on a smartphone.

many services were moved online or became automated, and seniors had no choice but to keep up or be left behind.

And today most of these users, who may not have tried these products and services, have stuck with things like cashless payments, using apps and video calling.

In the National Seniors Australia report, it compared results from the 2018 survey of 5466 seniors with a repeat survey of 5430 seniors in 2021.

And while the results were mainly positive showing seniors using more technology and adopting new habits, there was still discomfort solving issues with technical devices and concern about their digital privacy.

“Much digital engagement during the COVID era has been forced, with non-digital choices contracting over time and little support to make the transition,” said National Seniors Chief Executive and Director of Research, Professor John McCallum.

“The views seniors expressed in the 2021 survey clearly highlight the important fact that using technology does not imply comfort with it.”

The pandemic saw seniors buying new smartphones and learning how to use them so they could stay in touch with loved ones and check in to venues using QR codes.

For many, this was also a time when they discovered new platforms like Netflix and Zoom and learned how to make digital payments with their newly acquired smartphones.

The number of seniors who said digital services made life easier rose from 71 per cent in 2018 to 87 per cent in 2021.

But the level of frustration also grew from 32 per cent in 2018 to 46 per cent in 2021.

Our readers and listeners have told Tech Guide that companies assume everyone has access to the internet and are savvy enough to do things like fill out online forms.

And when they need help, they can’t speak to a human being – they are directed to apps and websites when they need help or tech support.

And it wasn’t all about using the technology but rather the effect new technologies were having on the community.

Of particular concern was ATMs and self-checkouts with many expressing a worry about these technologies putting people out of a job.

“Socially, the digital revolution has shifted people’s orientation from face to face and local to virtual and global,” said Professor McCallum.

“Is it any wonder that many older Australians, who prefer a local identity and community engagement, express a lack of comfort with this radical change?”

Nearly all the Australians interviewed for the report agreed that digital technologies needed to be designed for older people to understand as well.

There was also a call for older people to help each other

“Younger people are braver in using [devices and apps], and I suspect they learn from each other,” one senior respondent said.

“My acquaintances do not discuss [theirs]; therefore I am largely going it alone digitally, with mixed success.”