Elderly are 'virtually isolated' by lack of web
More than half of Westcountry pensioners have no access to the internet, a new report today reveals.
Just one in three (37.5%) people aged 65 or over in Cornwall are online, despite a highly publicised multi-million-pound roll-out to connect the whole of the county to superfast broadband.
The numbers for Devon also make for uneasy reading, with 54.6% of people aged 65 or older unable to access the worldwide web. This figure is similar to Dorset, where 57.7% of pensioners are not online, and Somerset, where the number is 54.1%.
The report by Age UK warns that an increasingly elderly population is at risk of becoming the forgotten generation as government, local
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authorities and businesses continue their drive to get more services online.
“Thousands of people are becoming virtually isolated,” said Bernard O'Neil, secretary of the National Pensioners Convention in Cornwall.
“The internet is part and parcel of life. But while people in their 60s are starting to realise the benefits, many in their late 70s and 80s think computers are too technical, which is worrying.”
The Age UK report comes just weeks after a study by Policy Exchange suggested the Government could save £70 billion by 2020 if it moved to paperless services.
The right-wing think-tank’s study prompted a robust reply from campaign group Keep Me Posted, which has also warned that the relentless drive toward the web will leave thousands of people across Devon and Cornwall isolated.
“There is no doubt that many businesses, in their drive for greater efficiency and cost savings, have forgotten to take their customers with them on that journey,” said the organisation’s chairman, Judith Donovan.
“As an individual this makes me worry for the welfare of those that may be disadvantaged.”
More than 200,000 people aged 65 and older in Devon and Cornwall do not have access to the internet, which is equal to 57.1%
Former RAF pilot Jeremy Davidson, 76, who lives alone in the Tamar Valley, said: “I found it extremely difficult to get my computer connected and eventually gave up after wasting a lot of time and money.”
Age UK is working with older people to help them to access the web.
Chief executive in Devon Colin Fletcher said: “One of our oldest participants is a 92-year-old who has no relatives locally but can see and talk to his grandchildren via Skype.
It is essential that we get the word out to older people – modern technology may seem daunting, but help is available.”