The digital divide between young and old is shifting

Digital offerings are very popular with the 65+ generation: 74 percent of seniors are online today. Young seniors can even keep up with the younger population in their use of digital communication technologies. This is shown by the study "Digital Seniors 2020" conducted by the University of Zurich on behalf of Pro Senectute Switzerland.

Pro Senectute

Senior citizens are discovering the opportunities offered by digital services and are increasingly taking a liking to the virtual world. The study shows that the proportion of internet users over 65 has almost doubled from 38 to 74 percent within a decade. Mobile use of the internet has even more than doubled since 2015 - from 31 to 68 percent. Ten years after the first survey, the usage figures of younger seniors are almost identical to those of the working population.

However, the digital divide between young and old has not disappeared - it has only shifted. Extrapolated, there are still around 400,000 seniors in Switzerland who do not use the Internet. In 2010, there were still over 820,000. Older people who are offline are now clearly in the minority and predominantly over 80 years old. The "onliners" among seniors are decreasing with increasing age: while 95 percent of 65 to 69 year-olds use the Internet, the figure is 54 percent for 80 to 84 year-olds and 35 percent for the over 85s.
New digital offerings on the rise

The curiosity of older people about new digital offerings and apps is growing. Whereas five years ago it was mainly the potential of e-mails and online schedules that was discovered, today instant messengers and gradually health apps and fitness wristbands are moving into the consciousness of senior citizens.

The third national survey also identifies a clear trend in smartphones: In recent years, it has become an important everyday mobile device for information searches and communication. In the meantime, 69 percent of the seniors surveyed use a smartphone, 81 percent of them on a daily basis. Despite this development, television (93 percent) and radio (89 percent) remain the most important sources of information for the 65+ generation. Younger seniors aged 65 to 75 even watch TV slightly more often than people over 80.


Training and assistance remain important

Especially in times of digital transformation, when online services and self-service technologies are developing rapidly, learning and using these achievements in old age is more relevant than ever. "As an organization for the elderly, it is important for us to familiarize seniors with the digital world and open up the possibilities of digitization to them with courses and concrete support," says Alain Huber, Director of Pro Senectute Switzerland. However, there are still older people who have no access to the Internet and digital offerings. "We have to make sure that these seniors are not excluded and lose touch with society," says Huber.


Overcoming social distancing thanks to digital offerings

The importance of digital communication channels for social participation was demonstrated during the Corona pandemic: Many families practiced using apps such as Facetime, Zoom or WhatsApp with their grandparents to stay in touch visually in times of physical distance. "Our experience shows that older people have intensified their use of digital offerings as a result of the Corona crisis and have increased their digital skills," confirms Huber. However, digital aids not only promote the social participation of older people, they also increase their autonomy and mobility. For example, the study makes it clear that seniors feel more independent and self-reliant thanks to the Internet.

The Study "Digital Seniors 2020 was conducted on behalf of Pro Senectute Switzerland by the Center for Gerontology at the University of Zurich. After 2010 and 2015, 1,149 people aged 65 and over were again surveyed throughout Switzerland on their use of digital communication technologies by means of a representative telephone and postal survey.

Media usage behavior in everyday life and general attitudes toward digital services were also surveyed. The data was collected in August and September 2019 - before the Corona pandemic. The projections in this media release are based on the "Population 2019" figures from the Federal Statistical Office FSO, thus on a total of 1,606,051 people over the age of 65.

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