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How can we use 'nudge' tactics to remove behavioural barriers for older people getting online?

“Nudge or Compel?: Can behavioural economics tackle the digital exclusion of older people?”, highlights that over 7.5 million adults have never used the internet. The majority of non-users are older, have disabilities or are in the lowest social classes.

The report, supported by social investor Nominet Trust, reveals new analysis of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) on the behavioural traits which accompany internet usage among older people. It finds that:

  • People who reported using the internet tended to report feeling more in control of various aspects of their lives.
  • People who didn’t own a computer were more likely to feel that they were unable to learn a new skill, while conversely people who did own a computer were more likely to agree that they could.
  • People who reported not using the internet were more likely to say that they ‘often’ felt isolated from others. Conversely, people who said they did use the internet were more likely to respond that they ‘hardly ever or never’ felt isolated. The same pattern was found for loneliness.

Nudge or Compel recommends that:

  • Service providers could attract older customers by finding ways of discounted installation and connection deals, and initial periods of free internet access.
  • Companies advertising technology and opportunities to learn technology should use imagery of both older and younger people.
  • Government and the private sector should support local digital champions to make the case at a community level for the use of new technology.
  • Government and the private should invest more in adult learning, particularly if certain services are going to be made available exclusively online.
  • The technology sector should place more emphasis on co-design.


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