Published: 31st May 2018
For almost a year from spring 2017, Good Things Foundation carried out research for the Centre For Ageing Better, to try and understand the underlying reasons for older people’s digital behaviour. Our methodology combined analysis of major datasets including the Online Centres learner survey and Ofcom’s Adults’ Media Use & Attitudes Report, as well as original qualitative research in the form of interviews, focus groups and observations. Rather than testing existing theories or assumptions, we took a grounded theory approach focused on the following research questions:
- What are the benefits of personal use of the internet for older people, and can these benefits be obtained offline, or through a friend or family member?
- What prevents and enables people in later life from making meaningful, sustained use of the internet?
- What characteristics distinguish the older online and offline populations, and what makes the difference at an individual level?
- Why do some older people continue to choose to not use the internet, and what strategies - if any - might encourage them to do so?
- With non-users becoming increasingly rare, how can digital inclusion practice remain economical in the short to medium term?
- What mechanisms can be used to identify at what point a change in personal circumstances turns the internet from an optional extra to a lifeline?
- National survey data shows that most older non-users cite a lack of interest to explain their behaviour. This position is not necessarily straightforward: lack of interest may obscure an underlying lack of confidence, or arise from misinformation about the risks and benefits of the internet. But in other cases, lack of interest may be a reasonable and well-informed choice.