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The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"Part of everyday life"
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Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 03:21 GMT 04:21 UK
Silver surfers boom

More than four million older people own a computer
By Consumer Affairs Correspondent Karen Bowerman

Older people are keeping abreast of new technology, and are far from confused by computers and the Internet, according to research published by Age Concern and Microsoft.

The survey suggests that about 80% of people over 50 find computers easy to use, while one in four people spend more time in front of their PC, than watching their favourite TV programmes.

Many older users favour educational websites
More than four million older people now own their own computers and around 600,000 are using them at colleges and libraries.

The research questioned 1,200 over-fifties and found that for those who have access to a PC, spending an afternoon in front of it is now their fourth favourite pastime.

Sally Greengross, Director General of Age Concern, England said: "As our survey shows, age is not a barrier to learning.

Computer habits of the over-fifties
81% use for correspondence
59% email their friends
48% surf the net
39% play games
22% shop
Older people have found that IT can enrich their lives and over four and a half million have literally found a whole new world at their fingertips."

Of those taking advantage of new technology, 81% use PCs for correspondence, 59% to email their friends, and 48% to surf the net.

Sylvia Richardson, aged 84, uses the internet to play bridge and to keep in touch with friends.

Sylvia Richardson: "it's incredible"
"I can get in touch with people and I get a reply almost immediately" said Mrs Richardson, "It's almost like being with them".

But whatever their preferences, the majority of older users believe that using a computer has made a positive difference to their lives.

When asked to specify their favourite websites, the majority cited learning and educational ones, whilst a quarter, mostly men, said they regularly visited hobbies and games sites.

But when it comes to online shopping, 70% of older computer users are still worried about credit card fraud.

Although one in six pensioners think computers are not for people of their age, and one in five cannot see what they would use them for, it seems the stereotypical perception that OAPs are intimidated by new technology could not be further from the truth.

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See also:

17 May 00 | UK Politics
Darling launches pensioners' conference
16 May 00 | Health
GPs say NHS is ageist
08 May 00 | Business
UK pensioners take to streets
29 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Elderly 'missing out' on benefits
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