Age report digitization: more seniors on the Internet

Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey presented the Eighth Age Report to the Federal Cabinet on Wednesday. A significantly larger proportion of older people are excluded from participation and the possibilities of digital technologies than in other age groups, the expert commission warns in its report. “Digitization has huge potential, especially for older people, which we have to exploit even more,” said Giffey.

The ten-person commission headed by the Heidelberg gerontologist Andreas Kruse found that people in their mid-70s are much less likely to be online than younger people. In the phase around retirement, the rate with access to the Internet is now significantly higher at over 80 percent. However, there were also differences. Seniors with a low and medium level of education use digital technology significantly less or less competently than those with a high school diploma or university degree. In order for this to be better, the basis would have to be created first, the experts complain about the persistent “digital divide” that is repeatedly documented in statistics.

The Commission believes that this form of digital divide is intolerable. “Too often older people are portrayed as those who cannot keep up with technical developments, who reject technical innovations and only react passively and subsequently to such developments,” the researchers write. On the other hand, a model was chosen in which senior citizens “are in principle able to act competently and independently in the digital world”. Those who cannot acquire the necessary digital skills themselves “should get the right support and advice”. Everyone must be enabled to “act confidently in the digital world”.

Require inequalities in access to digital technologies According to the report Comprehensive, tailor-made and quality-assured offers. The environment of older people plays a decisive role in this. In addition to caregivers in the private and family area, above all people in social professions, health care, technology, crafts and the housing industry are required here. The importance of digitization for the lives of senior citizens must be given greater consideration in the training regulations.

In particular, services of general interest must also be promoted digitally, demand the scientists. As you get older, everyday things can be difficult. Technical assistance systems or smart home technologies are able to help. Electronic patient files, online contact maintenance, virtual office visits or online shopping are just a few examples. But for this, the digital infrastructure must be improved. According to the commission, this included expanding the network, especially in rural areas, as well as “providing free internet access in public spaces”. Minister Giffey complained that “by no means all stationary care facilities offer WLAN” for their residents.

But the experts also raise ethical questions. You see all actors involved as required to weigh up opportunities and risks in the development and use of digital technologies. This has to happen before applications based on it, such as artificial intelligence or robot assistance, are “used in everyday life and care.” The experts recommend that the Federal Government set up ongoing accompanying research and monitoring with a view to digitization and life in old age.


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