Millions of elderly people feel cut off due to a lack of tech knowledge – and would even avoid a GP appointment if it was over a video call, a study has found.
A poll of 1,000 adults who have a relative aged over 70 found more than half believe their loved one would wait for an appointment in person rather than trying an online alternative.
And 53 per cent said their relation has already struggled to adjust to an altered lifestyle due to coronavirus.
The study, commissioned by BT Skills for Tomorrow, also found six in 10 said their elderly relatives have felt more isolated than ever before as a result of the global pandemic.
And half think it would be life-changing for their vulnerable relatives if they were able to order their own food shop online.
But more than half worry they’re not capable of picking up new skills when it comes to using technology effectively.
Professor Kerensa Jennings, BT group director of digital impact, said: “Technology has become an essential lifeline for millions of people right now.
“But to combat loneliness, we must ensure that older people can take advantage of the benefits that technology provides, from accessing vital services to staying in touch with family and friends.
“We know that even picking up some relatively simple digital skills can make a huge difference to the lives of older people and those that care for them during lockdown – whether it’s doing their own online shopping, accessing health services or enjoying face-to-face calls with loved ones.
“That’s why we are working closely with leading social change charity, Good Things Foundation, to ensure people can get the skills they need to stay connected and healthy during lockdown.”
The study also found those polled feel email and WhatsApp are the digital platforms their elderly relations would be most capable of using, with one in five over 70s able to stream through Amazon Prime or Netflix.
But half also worry their kin is reluctant to learn vital new digital skills – with three quarters suspecting they would see it as ‘too complicated’.
A quarter think their loved ones see the internet as unsafe, while 29 per cent said they haven’t got anyone to teach them and 35 per cent aren’t sure where they would go to learn the skills.
Three quarters of adults said their family member usually consumes their information from the television, with only one in five going online and a third relying on other people to update them on current events.
Interestingly, 41 per cent also suspected their loved one has never made an online purchase.
But with restrictions on who over 70s can see at the moment, 57 per cent said their relative is missing face-to-face contact, with 31 per cent worrying they have become increasingly bored since the lockdown came into place – with half saying it’s impacted their daily routine.
Only one in 10 are attempting to teach them new digital skills, although 39 per cent have been able to successfully have a video call with their elderly loved ones.
A third of those polled also think there have been occasions where they’ve put themselves at risk to care for their vulnerable relatives during the lockdown period.
And 38 per cent of those polled, via OnePoll, think their family members would be more open to improving their digital skills due to recent events – but don’t know where to start.
Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation, added: “The research supports what we’re hearing from our network partners and our wider findings on the issue of digital isolation.
“The people left behind are disproportionately older, often with existing health issues that are being compounded by a lack of confidence in digital technology.
“This is a deeply shocking societal problem we must all address urgently.
“We know that due to the Coronavirus pandemic more people are willing to try new things online and improve their digital skills, so this is the perfect time to give them the tools and guidance to do so.”
BT Skills for Tomorrow aims to give 10 million people the skills they need to make the most of life in today’s digital world.
BT is working in partnership with leading digital skills organisations to collate the best courses, webinars and information in one easy to navigate place.
To find out more, head to bt.com/skillsfortomorrow