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Published on 16 June 2017 01:30 PM

Older persons’ charity Age Scotland is welcoming a rise in older people using digital devices such as smartphones and tablets, but is also warning that this cannot be used as a pretext to exclude people who are not online.

Communications regulator Ofcom has today (16 June) released new figures showing changing patterns of media device ownership and use.i These show continuing increases in the ownership and use of digital devices by older people.

Key findings from the Ofcom research include:

  • Smartphone use among those aged 75 and over rose from 8% in 2015 to 15% in 2016, and in the 65–74 group rose from 28% to 39% during the same period. This can be compared with figures of 72% among all adults, and 93% among 16–24 year olds.
  • 60% of those aged 75+ use a mobile phone of any kind (smart or not) and 75% of those aged 65–74 do (versus 90% among all adults and 98% of those aged 16–44).
  • 40% of those aged 65–74 and 27% of those aged 75+ now use tablet devices (up from 31% and 15% respectively in 2015).

Derek Young, Senior Policy Officer with Age Scotland, said: “It is predictable that, over time, older people would more regularly own and use digital devices. Doing so can be life-enhancing, particularly by opening up opportunities for older people to be more independent but also more connected with their wider families and friends.

“However, it remains the case that most older people still don’t own or use either tablets or smartphones and go online far less frequently. Businesses and public services must recognise their responsibility to ensure access for those who lack the means, skills, motivation or confidence to use digital devices, so that they aren’t disadvantaged or excluded completely.”

Further findings on media device usage

  • Smartphones have overtaken computers for the first time as the device which most adults use to go online; if current trends continue, tablet devices will also overtake computers during 2017.
  • In 2015, mobile phones overtook TV sets as the device which people would miss the most if they went without it; though again there are profound differences in responses among different demographic groups. For 16–24 year olds the split is 74% for mobiles and 8% for TV; among the 75+ group the respective figures are essentially reversed (4% would miss their mobile most and 69% their TV). 11% of those aged 75+ would miss their radio the most; 0% of the 16–24 group agree.

Types of media device usage
There also remain profound differences in how different age groups use digital devices. For example:

  • a quarter of those aged 16–24 say the thing they would miss most without a smartphone is social media and messaging, 0% of those aged 75+ agree (making and receiving calls is the most common response among all age groups).
  • Older smartphone users are far less likely to use the device to complete a form or application, and much more likely to express the view that doing so would be too difficult for them.

(i) See "Digital media take-up and use", especially section 5. The preceding version of the report from 2016, for purposes of comparison, appears here.

For more information: Please contact our team on 0333 32 32 400