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Hard tech: More seniors online but they're not happy about it

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Senior Australians are still feeling frustrated using digital technology despite turning to online services more during the pandemic.

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A new National Seniors Australia report has found 87 per cent of older Australians surveyed believed digital services made their lives easier.

About 17 per cent say they use a mobile phone, up from 11 per cent in 2018, while 75 per cent use a search engine daily.

But Thursday’s report found 46 per cent of participants still felt frustrated using digital technology.

The report noted the lack of clear instructions on using new digital devices made life harder, along with younger people’s lack of understanding about the help older people needed.

Seniors also felt frustrated when website help services were poorly designed, hard to navigate, or relied on computer-generated answers to solve problems.

“These things are really not designed for the interests of all the people who can use them,” National Seniors chief executive John McCallum said.

“It’s fundamental that in the design phase, older people are involved. That’s a fact that really has to be confronted.”

The proportion of people who agreed they would always prefer to talk to a person than communicate online increased from 65 per cent in 2018 to 82 per cent in 2021.

The report also found more senior Australians believed digital services were designed for younger people (up to 45 per cent up from 37 per cent), while more than half said they wanted more training in digital services (59 per cent).

Prof McCallum said if governments and businesses digitised their services to save money, they needed to ensure older Australians understood how to use them.

He also noted seniors’ concerns about online scams could create more issues.

“There should be better protections,” he said.

“We saw a 10 to 20 per cent increase in our outbound calls not being answered by our members because they were worried that we’re a scam.

“We’ve got to deal with those barriers to people accessing and fluidly using digital services.”

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