Digital skills for older learners

People, over the age of 65, those on low incomes, and disabled people make up a large segment of the population who remain digitally excluded. These groups are unable to fully benefit from the vast opportunities that the internet and technology manifests.

Today, I am particularly interested in the ‘people over 65’ above, and to bring my focus to light, I revisit investigations conducted by Good Things Foundation, BT, and Talk Talk.

The investigation in context involved 23 Online Centres who were tasked new activities in order to reach people who are the most digitally excluded in the UK. They found that: “47% of people who have never used the internet in the UK are over 75, despite over 75s making up just 7.78% of the total UK population”

But, Why do older people avoid technology?


Tutor-Learner Relationship for Older People

1. Competence.

Learners admire open, competent, and knowledgeable teachers and educators. The fear, mistrust, and disinterest that some older learners display around the internet can be an outward reflection of what is actually a mistrust in their own abilities. Older people can suffer from a perception that their age means they will be less successful at learning. This may be compounded by previous negative learning experiences throughout the life-course.

A competent educator is empathetic, and he/she seizes every opportunity to encourage learning, believing that no one is above learning. Competent educators are lifelong learners and they take every opportunity to improve their own professional practice, in order to provide quality learning.

2. Space & Trust.

Trust, space and respect are three important components of the learning environment. A lack of trust and respect can cause learners to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the environment and the educator. In many cases, failure to develop spaces that nurture trust and respect may lead to certain, negative, behavioural anomalies.

Digital inclusion with older people should focus as much on a tutor’s relationship with the individual as on hard technical skills. Take time to build trust with a learner. This is likely to take a significant amount of one-to-one interaction, so if you are working in a classroom setting, try to enlist some volunteers in other to facilitate personalization and encourage individual interaction.

3. Patience.

The Internet defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. Older learners might take a longer time to become confident in understanding a task or process. Naturally, as we get older, we are more cautious and we tend to check for risks more often.

Ensure that you explain every step clearly and double-check and confirm that the learner understands before moving onto a next step. Be empathetic and patient, and be prepared to repeat messages and information, over and over again.

Get the full toolkit for old people here

Published by John Adewole

Senior User Researcher

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