3 September 2020: Despite being confident in using email technology, a new report released by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) at the Faculty of Arts and Design has found older Canberrans need help using video messaging applications like Zoom and Skype to combat feelings of social isolation.
Researchers at the N&MRC surveyed more than 500 members of the seniors’ organisation Council on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT) to better understand the needs of older news consumers and how their perceptions of news have changed over time.
Project leader, Associate Professor Caroline Fisher says while the report News and Wellbeing: Older generations and news consumption shows that older Canberrans are among the highest news consumers in the country, there are still some barriers to digital participation.
“Most older Canberrans happily use the internet, particularly for email. However, concerns about online privacy limits engagement for many and some need assistance with certain activities. Only one-third of people said they were confident using video messaging apps like Zoom and Skype, and most don’t use them,” said Dr Fisher.
“People in their 80s and 90s have the lowest confidence. Given that older people are being encouraged to self-isolate and many aged care facilities are in lock-down due to COVID-19, using video messaging apps is one of the best ways to stay in touch with loved ones.”
“Our report shows there is a need among older people to teach them how to use these applications to help reduce feelings of social isolation.”
The report also highlights the strong connection between news consumption and feeling socially connected.
Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) reported feeling more connected to the community when they access the news and a similar number (61 per cent) said they feel isolated when they do not access the news. This is particularly true for women, heavy news consumers and those who have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time.
Jenny Mobbs, CEO of COTA ACT welcomed the research which confirms an issue known for some time.
“It’s very important that we find out from senior people how life is for them. When we have the opportunity to be able to work with academics who can provide evidence through survey data about how senior Canberrans live their lives, we embrace it. This kind of information helps us to assist and speak on behalf of the Canberra senior community,” said Ms Mobbs.
“COTA ACT is a service provider, so we have senior Canberrans popping into the office all the time letting us know the issues and concerns they have regarding health, transport and all sorts of topics. They also let us know how they receive and consume news and information. With recent closures of local and regional newspapers, it is the seniors who will miss out.”
The report also found that:
- Older Canberrans think news is less relevant today than 10 years ago.While the survey participants say they are consuming more news now than when they were younger, only eight per cent think the news is more trustworthy than in the past. In addition, older Canberrans trust news less than their peers nationally.
- Privacy concerns are the biggest barrier to using the internet. For 41 per cent of participants, concerns about privacy stop them from using the internet. A lack of assistance is a barrier for around one-fifth of the older Canberrans surveyed (22 per cent), followed by a lack of skills (14 per cent), indicating the need for media literacy training.
- The majority of older Canberrans are concerned about fake news (79 per cent).
- The majority of older Canberrans spend time with family (56 per cent) and friends (82 per cent) regularly, and those who are socially active access news to feel connected to the community.
The full report can be found here.