Digital technology and social media has landed firmly in our lives and homes.

While popular culture would have us believe it’s all politicians on Twitter, tweens on TikTok and our middle-aged children on apps and email, the adoption of digital technologies by people over 50 has been steadily increasing. Since the beginning of the Pandemic many older Australians have embraced video calling for the first time, and many more have started to explore apps and social media, seeking relief in isolation.

Image of a senior man surfing the internet on his tablet while his wife is text messaging on her mobile phone

According to a survey by National Seniors Australia, which compared digital use for people 50+ in 2018 to that in 2021, there were increases in the number of people who used an internet search engine every day, who sent text messages daily and who used online banking every week. More participants rated their ability at using a mobile phone, finding information online and using email as “good” or “excellent” in 2021. Mobile phone use in those aged over 70 doubled, and tablet use in the 80+ group nearly doubled as well.

The digital literacy barrier

Image of an elderly couple on their laptop. The man is having trouble.

But while older people are learning to embrace its benefits, there are many who find digital technology confusing and even unnecessary. In fact, it can improve your life in many ways by offering convenience, social connection and personal security, so it’s worth exploring. If you don’t feel confident using the Internet or personal devices, there’s a variety of ways to improve your digital literacy and build your skills.

Where to go for help

Councils often offer free, in-person sessions at local libraries. You could attend a private course, or even enlist family members to show you the ropes. There are government initiatives like Be Connected where you can learn at your own pace. Specifically designed to be easy to understand, this helpful website offers online learning resources and links to community partners who can offer support and develop your digital skills and confidence.

Image of the Australian Government Be Connected website

The site’s Topic Library starts with the absolute basics of “what is a tablet” and “what is the internet” then drills into deeper information on safety, Wi-Fi, hobbies and games, specific brands and how their devices work, explanations on apps, using the Cloud, and various activities on the Internet including buying and selling online, banking and an introduction to MyGov—the Services Australia hub for Centrelink, Medicare, My Aged Care and more. There’s even a practice area to build mouse and keyboard skills for computers, and the essential skills needed to use a smart device like tapping, swiping, scrolling and zooming.

While it’s easy to dismiss digital technology as “a young person’s game”, there are so many ways smart devices, computers and the Internet can benefit older Australians. Learning the ropes can be fun and exciting, and is sure to unlock new opportunities to help you get the most out of your golden years. So jump in, log on and zoom in to the wondrous digital world that awaits you!

Looking for over 50s lifestyle living? The AVA Communities lifestyle villages at Geelong and Yarrawonga are designed to support over 50s wellness, and make it easier for you to find ways to keep your mind healthy, active and firing. Click here to find out more.