The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on daily life for older adults. While security measures put in place have been crucial in battling the spread of the virus, they have also led to challenges in the acquisition of basic needs, social support and the management of preexisting conditions. With countries around the world implementing various lock down and shelter in place policies, the use and reliance on digital technologies has increased significantly. While these technologies have been crucial in maintaining access to information, services and social connection during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is imperative that those who are most in need of these interventions are able and confident in their abilities to use them.
Despite the growing need for digital literacy and reliance on digital solutions, a recent article entitled “Designing software to include older people in the digital world” indicated that only 76% of adults over the age of 65 in the UK had accessed the internet in the past three months, compared to 99% of individuals aged 16-44. This issue is further exacerbated by the fact that older adults have and continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the associated physical distancing measures.
As organizations around the world mobilize to respond to this abrupt uptick in the use of technologies it is imperative to recognize the opportunity and responsibility to design and redesign these software solutions to maximize inclusivity and accessibility. One such example would be simply to limit changes made during software updates. Retaining familiarity can be crucial in ensuring continued use and engagement with technology, and therefore large changes to software interfaces can prove frustrating and prohibitive to many older adults.
Another growing concern is the exploitation of older adults from various internet scams and fraud. The United States FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that over $835 million in losses among adults over the age of 60 in 2019. The increasing sophistication of the schemes and the exploitation of the fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically increased the susceptibility of older adults. In fact, according to the Canadian Federal Government, older adults are more likely to experience fraud than any other form of crime.
While governments, individuals and businesses are increasingly innovating and collaborating to help reduce fraud and financial abuse, the role of education cannot be overstated. IFA believes that increasing the digital literacy and accessibility of older adults is crucial not only in being able to identify and prevent fraud or accessing digital supports but in ensuring that this population have the same rights and opportunity to engage and contribute within an increasingly digital world.
To learn more about the creation of technologies and services that benefit older adults and caregivers connect with IFA expert Dr Alex Mihailidis, Principal Investigator and a joint Scientific Director of AGE-WELL, Canada’s leading technology and ageing network.
Dr. Alex Mihailidis Associate Professor
Dr Mihailidis has been conducting research in the field of pervasive computing and intelligent systems in health for the past 15 years,