Older Australians are the fastest growing group of Internet users, but according to peak seniors’ body, the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA), the demographic is still vastly under represented.
In a committee public hearing, Human Rights Commission age discrimination commissioner, Susan Ryan, said that Australian seniors are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse online in the event that they don’t know how to look after themselves.
“This has resulted in an underutilisation of the net by seniors. On the most recent research we did, about half of people under 65 are not Net users and of people over 75, there was an even higher proportion,” she said.
As such, it becomes an equity issue as they are missing out on using services available online – such as online shopping and online banking, as well as access to information, including exclusive information the government provides to them via its website.
She said that seniors’ fear and nervousness of being associated with frauds and scams was the reason behind the dwindling numbers of them using the Internet.
Ryan suggested Australia follows a model that is being put in place in Europe, where there is a legislated right to use the Internet.
In helping seniors manage their finances online, The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has deployed the MoneySmart website, containing useful information for them on scams and also features calculators to help them with their personal finances.
The Telstra connected seniors program funds opportunities for senior tutoring program to help them with basic education of using the Internet as well as ways to maintain their privacy and security. University students will be a part of this mentoring program.
According to Ryan, joining such programs will aid the two million Australian seniors over the age of 55 who desire to work but are not at work.
She said the rollout of the NBN should bring about the opportunities, especially for house bound and those in regional areas.
A recent national seniors study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) showed that the number of seniors aware of the broadband for seniors’ initiative was 19 per cent.
“One of the objectives for the NBN is access to health services. Of course, older Australians need this more than any other age group. We are moving into a world of NBN initiatives and with that, they can access their general practitioner, nursing or pharmaceutical advise,” Ryan said.
Ryan advocated that the government should take the statistics on board and pass on the message to them via traditional media methods that seniors use daily.