New app aims to drive digital inclusion for older people

An app has been launched with the aim of improving digital inclusion among older members of the population.

The importance of virtual tools and technologies to enable communication and secure access to vital services was made clearer than ever by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a range of restrictions on everyday life.

Overcoming the barriers to in-person contact that became necessary during the health crisis is one of the main objectives of the new app, which was created by the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research (CADR).

Funded by the Welsh government and led by Swansea and Bangor universities, CADR carries out research, practice and policy activities that aim to improve the lives of older people.

With its new app, the organisation hopes to provide relevant information and support to those who have been digitally excluded and also extend its reach to new audiences.

CADR co-director Charles Musselwhite pointed out that, while older people are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology and spending more time online than ever before, some activities, such as navigating menus on websites, are still challenging for many.

"Hopefully, this will make sure people can easily access all CADR's resources, our news and webinars for example, and get involved with CADR from a one-stop shop at the touch of a finger, making it easily accessible for everyone," he added.

Professor Kieran Walshe, director of Health and Care Research Wales, said this could prove to be a "key development" in overcoming some of the remaining barriers to digital inclusion for older members of the population.

The app is available to download for free on Android and iOS devices. It was launched in support of the International Day of Older Persons on October 1st, the theme of which was 'digital equity for all ages'.

In its introduction to the event, the United Nations underlined the need for "access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons". It also pointed out that, during the next 30 years, the number of older people in the population is projected to more than double, surpassing 1.5 billion by 2050.

There have been some positive trends relating to digital inclusion and familiarity with technology among older individuals in recent years. Data compiled by the Office for National Statistics showed that the proportion of people over the age of 75 using the internet nearly doubled from 29 per cent in 2013 to 54 per cent in 2020.

The 2020 data was collected between January and March of that year, meaning it didn't reflect the impact of Covid-19. It's expected that the widespread shift to online services and communications during the pandemic has fuelled further growth in internet use among older people.