Tech troubles for older Aussies

Older Australians used to paper bills, postage and personal contact are being dragged “kicking and screaming” into the digital age.

It’s a common complaint YourLifeChoices hears all the time. Seniors are struggling to keep up with the digital world when it comes to paying bills and filling out forms for essential services.

YourLifeChoices member Anne D offers one such story.

“Recently I was in the local post office renewing my passport when a couple in their 80s in the next aisle requested a form to renew their passports. The assistant told the husband that there was no form available and that the applications were now online,” said Anne.

“He explained that they did not own a computer and after a few moments of discussion the man was becoming quite upset, the attendant then gave him a form and he seemed happy until, while showing it to his wife, he realised it was an application form for a new passport. He became very angry and left.

“I am left wondering how other seniors are going to cope with these online requirements that are now in place.”

This is not a solitary case. A plethora of older Australians are in the same boats as Anne’s post office pals.

An article on earlier this week listed similar complaints from older people all over the nation.

One such senior, 89-year-old Edna Cable, spoke to 7.30 about the difficulties she faces using her digital tablet.

“It just swings around and does funny things,” said Ms Cable.

“It’s too stressful. The other night, I tried so much that I ended up in tears.”

Also speaking to 7.30, 75-year-old Jim Donaghy expressed similar tech troubles trying to use his new digital tablet.

“It’s taking me all my time not to throw it through the television or the window,” he said.

“There are three buttons on that thing. I wear glasses and I can’t even see them with glasses on. What I’ve learnt so far is to try and stay calm.”

Tech Savvy Seniors seminar trainer Martin Yates expressed concern over the difficulties seniors face when trying to access essential services such as MyGov and the Age Pension.

“They are being dragged along into this new world whether they like it or not,” Mr Yates said.

“With seniors, there’s a lot of pressure to be online.”

With most financial, utilities and government institutions switching to digital services over snail mail and face-to-face transactions, many older Australians are being forced to learn how to cope with a digital world. These same institutions provide little respite for those who prefer to use the old systems, or for those who don’t have access to a computer or smart device.

“Many of the government agencies, in particular, encourage you to use online,” Mavis Owens told the ABC.

“And they are making all the other options more difficult.”

The Government has committed $47.2 million to its ‘Be Connected’ program to help older people improve their digital skills in order to access essential services from departments such as Centrelink, Medicare and other Department of Human Services resources.

Regardless of the hurdles faced by older people, and even though around 49 per cent of over 65s do not currently engage in digital technology, the Government wants every Australian to have a “single digital identity” by 2025.

National Seniors’ Professor John McCallum is concerned that the Government is pushing older people into a corner.

“Let’s call it straight,” he said. “It’s age discrimination.”

He’d like to see resources that better meet the needs of older Australians, including maintaining face-to-face contact and personal consultations, so they don’t become isolated and cut off from essential services.

“It’s still very important to talk to people, particularly important for older people,” Professor McCallum said.

“It’s important for their health, their wellbeing and their social life.”

Do you feel that there is a lack of co-designed services for older Australians? Should more emphasis be put on maintaining old systems in order to keep people connected? When your services were switched to digital, were you ever consulted or given an option to stick with posted bills or personal contact?

Related articles:
Digital health system is here
Addressing the digital inclusion gap
Death in the digital age

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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