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  • Writer's pictureCohesive Society

Digital exclusion for the elderly in BAME community

Updated: Mar 29

Meaning of digital exclusion:

Digital exclusion indicates a segment of the population that does not have the requisite access to the use of digital communication to help them to participate in the present society. During the coronavirus endemic, there were millions of elderly people who experienced intense loneliness and mental agony. Through combined efforts to remain protected indoors to stay protected, the normal ways of meeting people in person were stopped. At that time, many people adopted digital ways of communication to stay in touch with people, even if that meant arranging a virtual movie night with friends/relatives or just a telephone or video call with them. Nonetheless, the Coronavirus pandemic revealed that accessibility to digital modes of communication is not accessible to one all. The major issue of the digital divide in the population and the digital exclusion of elderly people became evident. A research report presented by the Centre for Aging Better highlighted the considerable digital divide among elderly people (mainly among people aged between 50 years to 70 years) and the situation has worsened due to COVID.

Exploring the reasons why elderly people in the BAME community become digitally left out.

There are numerous reasons why elderly people remain digitally left out and the digital divide constantly gets widened. The inequality in society suggests that the ones with higher economic resources, better social support, and higher knowledge need to be counted in. According to reports, there are mainly five different classes of factors illustrating why elderly people face the risk of being digitally excluded in comparison to other groups of citizens. The selected categories also include how elderly people feel left out, and the reason why they feel left out.

1. Fear and anxiety about using digital technology

Fear and anxiety about using digital technology or any other digital services are considered to be a common cause of digital exclusion (Powell et al., 2012, Guo et al., 2013, Rana and Dwivedi, 2015) and is considered to be one of the most commonly cited categories. It involves fear of committing errors, fear of using new technology, and insecurity due to lack of knowledge.

2. Negative attitude toward digital technology and services

A negative attitude toward using digital technology or services mainly involves a lack of interest (Chen and Chan, 2011, Niehaves and Plattfaut, 2014, Venkatesh et al., 2003). It is regarded to be a must than a mere want s regards using digital technology and online services. In case elderly people lack interest, then they might think that it is too much new and advanced technology and a lot to understand. Many elderly people intend to learn about digital technology but do not have anyone to ask. Whilst for others, the main issue is that they lack the curiosity and interest to learn new technology and do not see the point in using these difficult things.

3. “Too old” –they feel that they are too old for learning how to use new and advanced digital technology and services.

The perception and belief of aged persons as being unable to learn can be analyzed from various perspectives (Wagner et al., 2010, Barnard et al., 2013, Hawthorn, 2007). As mentioned in reports, the aged people were not born and brought up in the world of digitization and computers just as young people are these days. Old people tend to believe that modern and advanced technology develops rapidly which their old brains fail to keep up with. In their views, they are old fashioned, they did not have access to computers or learn using computers in their school, therefore, it is quite difficult for them to keep up. Therefore, there is a generation gap to handle, which also implies that elderly people need to have more knowledge to make use of digital technology. There are sections of society who are of the view that adequate efforts are required to bridge the digital gap and to help elderly people to acquire the requisite knowledge.

4. Missing knowledge and experience of using digital technology and services.

An important point that is frequently mentioned is missing knowledge and experience. As discussed in different research reports, not knowing how to utilize digital technology is an important reason for digital exclusion. Digital technology is something new and is quite unknown to them. According to some of the respondents of the research, it is difficult for aged people to understand what the new technology is all about, and to keep up with the quick pace. Another issue highlighted by respondents of researchers is that many elderly people have not handled computers during their work life. Therefore, this hinders their process of adopting new digital technology.

5. Linguistic issues in terms of having problems in understanding digital terminology

Linguistic issues, mainly digital technology, are often presented in English. Aged people have constantly been marginalized by digital service providers who have considered users as a homogenous class. Language issues, therefore, are part of the obstacles in the process of the adoption of digitalization. However, it is not only the English terms but also the technological terminologies on the whole. This is pertinent for both written as well as digital information. Research respondents are also of the view that during help and assistance sessions, things are explained in incomprehensible language that elderly people fail to understand.

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