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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
'Silver surfers' web access worry
A woman reading "How to be a silver surfer"
Age Concern says older people should be encouraged to get online
New figures released by Age Concern Cymru suggest many older people in Wales are being "left behind" by new technology.

According to the assembly government, over 50s in Wales are just as "internet savvy" as their younger counterparts.

But an independent poll commissioned by the charity revealed that many older people in Wales do not have access to the internet.

It fears this could have a "damaging" effect on their quality of life.

A survey by the assembly government's Broadband Wales programme found 95% of over 50s questioned accessed the internet on a daily basis.

We must begin to understand the reasons why older people are falling behind in using the internet and address these issues as a matter of urgency
Robert Taylor, Age Concern Cymru

Respondents said they used the internet to get the "best deal" on products, as a research tool for a variety of topics, including health issues, educational courses, and family ancestry.

Some used it to keep in touch with family, and some for business purposes.

However, an independent poll commissioned by Age Concern Cymru revealed only 15% of over 65s in Wales have access to the internet, compared to 79% of 18-24 year olds.

Of the 55-64 age group, 43% had access to the internet.

"Left behind"

The director of Age Concern Cymru, Robert Taylor said: "The poll findings clearly show that older people in Wales are getting left behind other age groups.

"This could have a damaging effect on older people's quality of life, especially if public and private organisations continue to increase their use of the internet to deliver information and services."

Mr Taylor said ability was "not a factor" for the majority of older people.

Retired businessman Walter Harris, 76, from Cwmbran, has been using the internet since 1993.

He uses his skills to support the work of older people's forums throughout the Torfaen area.

Walter Harris at his computer
Mr Harris acts as a 'mentor' to older people attending IT classes

Mr Harris acts as a 'mentor' to people attending Age Concern Torfaen's IT classes in Pontypool.

He said: "I would advise all older people to have a go at accessing the internet as I am sure they will be amazed a the number of things you can do."

According to the poll carried out for Age Concern, more than half of computer users in Britain aged over 50 said using the internet has "broadened their horizons".

However, 44% of the age group has no access to a computer at home, work, or elsewhere.

"Not interested"

Of the Welsh respondents who did not have internet access, 24% said they could not afford it, while 68% said they were not interested, and 44% said they did not understand it.

Mr Taylor continued: "We must make sure older people can afford the technology, and that educational bodies are enthusing older people with relevant examples of how the internet can improve their lives.

"We must begin to understand the reasons why older people are falling behind in using the internet and address these issues as a matter of urgency."

The Broadband Wales programme was launched in 2002, and aims to achieve a "competitive and sustainable broadband infrastructure" across Wales by 2007.

The assembly government said a "significant" focus of the programme for 2006 will be encouraging the older generation to become "more relaxed" using Information Communication Technology (ICT) and broadband.




SEE ALSO:
Invitation for 'silver surfers'
22 May 06 |  Technology
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15 Mar 04 |  South West Wales


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