New resources help organisations to support older people to use digital

Posted by Gareth Hargreaves

Initiatives such as Get Online Week - the UK’s largest digital inclusion campaign - are delivering positive impacts that digital can have for older people as highlighted in a new report.

digital inclusion for older people

The evaluation was completed by Good Things Foundation as part of the Widening Digital Participation programme, supported by the NHS. Good Things Foundation is also publishing a toolkit of resources to help organisations to support older patients to benefit from digital.

Although the generation gap in internet use is narrowing, with many older people going online to get more out of later life, there is still a huge digital divide. 55% of over 65s lack at least one essential digital skill[1], and 53% of over 65s have none of the foundational digital skills they need[2].

For older people experiencing life transitions, and with care and support needs, being able to go online can be especially valuable. Digital tools, such as the NHS App, can support older people to manage repeat prescriptions, book and cancel appointments and view their medical record.

There are a number of practical resources available to help older and disabled people to get online. However, there is currently no national provision focused on older people’s digital inclusion to ensure they can benefit from online health and care services.

As part of their digital inclusion work with the NHS, Good Things Foundation worked with two Pathfinders - in Thanet and Sunderland - to test how they could support older people with care and support needs.

The two projects employed different approaches to supporting older people. In Sunderland, Age UK provided free digital skills classes to older people in a range of deprived locations across the borough, developing a partnership with the local council to identify skills needs amongst older, vulnerable people. And in Thanet, Orbit Housing designed a community-based digital skills scheme, to build the skills of disabled older people living in supported accommodation. They built a thriving peer support network which reached almost 50% of residents.

One person who has benefited from digital skills support is Roy, from Thanet. "I'm learning to do beneficial things for myself," he explained. "I’ve found two health apps - one is a patient access app which I’ve joined, which means I can manage my medication which I need every month, and manage my appointments online. I have an app that tells me how many people are in the waiting room of each hospital in the area. I used it on Boxing Day, as I needed to go to A&E. There was one hospital with 34 people waiting and another hospital with only 1. So I went there and went straight through to see the doctor.”

Good Things Foundation is making a number of key recommendations, to support the digital upskilling of older patients:

[1] Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2019

[2] Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2019 


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