Privacy and data security top concerns for older people using the internet – research

Study finds three-quarters worry about making payments in error

Privacy and personal data security are the top concerns for older people when using the internet, new research has found, with people particularly nervous about mistakenly signing up for or paying for services online.

The research was carried out by Vodafone Ireland Foundation as part of its Hi Digital programme aimed at encouraging older people to get online.

It found 74 per cent of those in the 65 to 75 age group were most nervous about signing up or paying for something by mistake

Half of those surveyed turned to family and friends for tech support, although 51 per cent were concerned with bothering family members who may be too busy.


That support could be crucial though. Almost two thirds said they would be comfortable in learning new digital skills with help, and 61 per cent feel improved digital skills would have a positive impact on their lives, with 58 per cent believe connecting to others online would help ease feelings of isolation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on digital literacy levels across society. Almost 80 per cent of older people said technology enhanced their ability to stay in touch with loved ones during periods of restrictions, while 65 percent of over-75s said it had given them a better understanding of the importance of technology.

Some 38 per cent said they had visitors to their home less than once a month, while 40 per cent said they speak to family or friends every day and 28 per cent found the pandemic encouraged them to use technology to connect with others.

Vodafone Ireland Foundation's Hi Digital programme is a €2 million multi-year digital skill training programme for older people. The nationwide programme is being carried out through the Vodafone Ireland Foundation in partnership with Alone and Active Retirement Ireland. It aims to reach more than 230,000 older people over the next five years through its purpose-designed education platform. It was announced in September last year.

Eager to improve

“Older people are eager to improve their digital skills in order to be digitally literate and confident while on the internet,” said Seán Moynihan, chief executive of Alone. “The positive impact that technology is having on older people’s lives was seen during the depths of the pandemic most importantly with families being able to see each other’s faces while social isolating was at a peak. Now more older people see technology as empowering them in all aspects of their lives and we are here to help.”

Vodafone Ireland chief executive Anne O’Leary said the response to the programme was overwhelming. Some 15,000 users have signed up and almost 20,000 sessions have been completed.

"Our research has found that there is a real desire amongst our older people to get online," she said. "Hi Digital aims to make this a reality by supporting older people with the help of our charity partners ALONE and Active Retirement Ireland. Our online programme and classes we hope, will help decrease isolation and loneliness, allowing older people to stay more connected to family and friends and their community. "

“We know that the pandemic has caused unprecedented suffering and isolation for many, but as we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, we want to make it even more accessible for older people in our society to gain confidence online. We hope to empower and increase digital literacy amongst older people and through the power of connectivity becoming more confident online.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist