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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
Silver surfers say net is 'vital'
Photo of Elizabeth, 73, who plays bingo online
Many older people are having fun online and meeting new people
Technology use across the age groups in the UK is on the rise, even though a recent report said older generations are still alienated by technology.

Two polls marking Silver Surfers' day, suggest technologies like the net are considered essential by older people.

More than half of over-55s online say the net gives them a new lease of life. Seven percent look for love online, and 22% play games.

The annual Silver Surfers' day tries to introduce older groups to technologies.

The day, which gets support from the European Union's social fund, aims to ease 10,000 "digitally excluded" older people into a digital life by showing them how technologies might add to their lives.

I love playing poker and bingo online with people all over the world. I find websites are a great way to meet new friends. My grandchildren call me 'cybergran'!
Elizabeth Sheridan, 73

The attitudes towards technologies across the generations is levelling out, thinks technology giant Hewlett Packard (HP).

But there are still millions who feel technology is for younger generations. Only 35% of people over-55s are using the net, according to the Office of National Statistics.

A report by the Independent Consumer Panel for the UK communications watchdog Ofcom earlier this month found that older and lower income people felt alienated from digital life.

They felt technology companies were not looking closely at their needs, and older age groups felt particularly frustrated when it came to understanding information they were given about technologies.

Only one in five were interested in keeping up-to-date with technological developments, according to the research.

43% search for far-flung friends and family
22% play web games such as bingo
7% regularly visit online dating services and chat rooms
Source: Telewest Broadband survey 2005
Technology is seen as potentially playing a crucial role in health matters for people, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults for HP.

Two-thirds of all age groups say technology has a positive influence on their lives too. Fifty-eight percent of over-65s said it had made life better in some way for them.

Bingo online

A separate survey of nearly 1,500 people for Telewest Broadband found that technology, especially the net, is helping older people find new interests.

Fifty-seven percent of over-50s in the survey said being online had introduced them to new experiences.

"I love playing poker and bingo online with people all over the world. I find websites are a great way to meet new friends. My grandchildren call me 'cybergran'!" said Bradford surfer, Elizabeth Sheridan, 73.

Another surfer, Caroline Tovey, 68, has been online for four years.

"Shortly after I was widowed, my family organised internet connection for me at home and it has completely broadened my horizons.

RJ45 cables

"Not only can I keep in regular contact with friends and relatives in Australia and America. But I've had the opportunity to make new ones and rediscover old school friends, one of whom I hadn't had contact with in over 30 years."

Half of over-50s said life without the net was unimaginable.

The rise of fast net connections means people are more able to browse web pages at high speed, download files such as music or films and play online games.

As a result, according to experts, this is changing what people do in their spare time.

A study by analysts Jupiter Research found that 40% of households with broadband net in Europe were spending less time watching TV.

"The internet can be an effective means of delivering access to vital services and information about health, hobbies and employment, as well as helping older people keep in touch with friends and family and access vital public services," commented David Sinclair, social inclusion policy manager of charity Help the Aged.

But, he said, better information, education and advice was vital in closing the digital divide.

For the people, by the people

To help find out what people want from technology, HP is launching a campaign, Generation Nation.

As part of the campaign, it wants people of all ages to take part in a series of interactive forums in London, Manchester and Glasgow.

They will be chaired by former BBC Tomorrow's World presenter, Philippa Forrester, and aim to find out what people actually want out of technology.

"Through Tomorrow's World, I experienced, first hand, the real passion British people have for technology, from famous inventors like Tim Berners-Lee and the world wide web, to ordinary people with a great idea that will make life easier," she said.

In April, the UK government unveiled a seven-point plan to tackle Britain's digital divide.

It will try to remove barriers such as cost, lack of training and confidence that keep some people off the internet.

Technology 'baffles old and poor'
16 May 05 |  Technology
Dealing with a digital underclass
29 Apr 05 |  Technology
Broadband reveals digital divide
26 Apr 05 |  Technology
Digital divisions tackled head-on
02 Apr 05 |  Technology
Elderly 'need digital TV funds'
24 Nov 04 |  Entertainment

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