Older people lack digital skills to access new health services

Older people are the biggest users of health and care services, with the average NHS spend for retired households nearly double that for non-retired households.

But many lack the skills to take advantage of changes in the way healthcare is being delivered, warns Digital Unite, one of the UK’s main providers of digital skills learning.

Technology is transforming the face of healthcare and bringing huge benefits to patients. Being able to book appointments online, order repeat prescriptions and improved access to online information and services can really advance patients’ health and well-being. Video calling your GP and personal health monitoring systems through mobile phone apps may be solutions for the future.

However, many older people still aren’t online or don’t have the skills to use such services. New ONS figures (Q4, 2013) show that 6.7 million adults in the UK have never used the internet, with 5.8 million of them aged 55 and over.

Dick Stroud of Digital Unite says: “It’s vital that we encourage and inspire these millions of older people to get online. The healthcare industry can help by signposting to the many resources that are available – whether it’s a beginners’ computer course at the local library or a national digital inclusion campaign like Spring Online from March 31-April.”

Spring Online in association with Carphone Warehouse sees thousands of free taster events and sessions held by volunteers all across the UK to help and inspire local people achieve a lasting use of the internet – and transform their lives.

Digital Unite research has shown that of those people over 55s who are using the internet, four out of five (86%) said it had improved their lives. 72% said that being online had helped reduce their feelings of isolation and 81% said that using the internet made them feel part of modern society. In addition 20% of older learners in a Digital Unite social housing learning programme felt their understanding of health related issues had improved as a result of being online.

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