Touchscreens bring internet to elderly

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Associated Press

Touchscreens have made accessing the internet much easier than managing keyboards, which many older people found confusing, slow and difficult to negotiate.

London - The proportion of older people accessing the web has leapt by more than a quarter in a year as thousands have been won over by the ease of using tablets such as the iPad and Kindle.

The touchscreens have made accessing the internet much easier than managing keyboards, which many older people found confusing, slow and difficult to negotiate.

At the same time, the ability to magnify text and navigate between pages through touch have taken the mystery out of browsing the web, whether it is reading an online newspaper, shopping or watching a film.

New figures from broadcasting regulator Ofcom show the proportion of the over 65s accessing the web reached 42 percent in 2013. That was an increase of nine percentage points, which equates to a rise of 27 percent over 2012.

The change came as the proportion of those aged 64 to 75 who regularly use a tablet rose from 5 percent to 17 percent over the same period.

Currently, older people are relatively conservative in their use of the web, with most doing no more than browsing websites and using email.

But this is changing: some 35 percent of pensioners are going online to do their banking, versus 61 percent of the wider population. Just 25 percent are watching or downloading TV programmes or films, versus 40 percent of others.

Around 30 percent are visiting social network sites like Facebook, which is much lower than the 68 percent for all other age groups.

'Tablets are far more intuitive than computers and laptops. For someone who finds technology completely alien, a touchscreen is simply easier to get to grips with than a computer mouse,' said Stephen Ebbett, director of gadget insurer Protect Your Bubble.

'And tablets – once the preserve of early adopters and business folk – are now much less expensive than they used to be. You can now buy a budget slate for under £100 which has boosted their popularity across all demographics.

'Ofcom's stats suggest tablets could just hold the key to solving the problem of digital isolation,' he added.

Increasingly, the internet, tablets and smartphones are pulling the nation away from traditional forms of entertainment, particularly the living room TV.

Many teens and young adults aged 16 to 24 said the gadget they would most miss and could least do without was the smartphone at 47 percent versus just 13 percent for a TV.

At the same time, the number of adults regularly watching DVDs, videos or Blu-ray discs has fallen in the year – down from 63 percent to 55 percent.

The net result of the change in the way young people relax means those aged 16 to 24 spend typically spend more than a full day every week - over 24 hours - online, browsing, shopping, viewing and swapping messages, emails and pictures. That compares to a weekly average of nine hours 12 minutes for those over 65.

More adults than ever before, including older age groups, are playing games on all types of devices - 42 percent compared to 35 percent in 2012. But while there is big money to be made by developing popular apps for games and other services, it seems many users soon become bored.

Ofcom’s research found that while nearly half of smartphone users had downloaded an app, two-thirds of these are not regularly used. On average, smartphone owners have 23 apps installed, but only 10 are used regularly.

A clear preference was shown by app users to use them for reading news and downloading videos and music, while internet browsers were preferred for shopping and searching for information. - Daily Mail


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