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What does having broadband mean to older people?

February 4, 2011

By Shelagh Marshall

Plans are afoot to bring Superfast Broadband to the remote areas of North Yorkshire.  

This is where the population has a greater percentage of older people living, than in the market towns. 

Many people come to North Yorkshire to retire to the seaside or the villages in this rural County.

What will the introduction of superfast broadband mean to older people?

Older people are those who are 50+ but who are usually over 60 years and retired. I have learned that age is not an indication of using a computer or determination not to use one. Without quoting statistics we are now all aware that the older population is growing older rapidly. 

Furthermore so much information is only available on websites, so how will we access information in the future?

As a member of the UK Advisory Forum on Ageing, I have so far persuaded Government that printed information must still be produced for older people.  I do not imagine that I will hold Government to that for much longer and I see a future where information will only be available by accessing the internet.

At the end of January, I attended a meeting of older people from across Yorkshire, including North Yorkshire to learn about ‘Digital Switch On’.  Digital Television is also coming to North Yorkshire in August and September 2011.

I used this opportunity to ask the older people at that event what having broadband meant to them.   I was as interested in listening to their answers to that question as much as what they would not use it for.  These are the answers given to me.

“It allows constant contact with relatives and friends and with one’s MP.”

“E-mail, keeps you in touch.”

“Ability to receive attachments with more information.”

“Buying books on- line.”

“Researching family trees.”

“Bringing information into the home – train times, what’s on at the cinema.”

“Booking holidays.”

“iPlayer – watching any programmes missed.”

“Internet billing for energy bills – getting any discount available.”

“Shopping when you are housebound (I have a friend who only uses a computer for this and keeping in touch with her daughter who lives in Greece.”

There is a reluctance to use internet banking, the reason stated was the fear of the risks of stolen identity etc.  Internet billing isn’t very popular either.

In North Yorkshire I am hoping that for those older people who cannot for many reasons other than finance, will not be able to buy a computer, I am looking to the provision of access centres such as those in the libraries and internet cafes for older people and young people where help is available to enable access to information via the websites on the internet. 

I could not carry out all the work I do as a councillor without the use of my computer, laser printer and e-mail. With the increase in first class postage coming in next April. It will be far less expensive to use electronic mail.

Shelagh Marshall is a North Yorkshire County Councillor. She actively champions opportunities for older people and encourages them to speak out.

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