At home in the digital world

18 June 2021

Only 27 percent of the over-65s surveyed indicated that they find it easy to deal with digital technologies. This is shown in the most recent Digimeter, the annual survey of media use in Flanders conducted by the research center Imec.

“Just as in other age groups, there are older people who are well versed in the digital world and have few problems with digital applications, but there are also many older people for whom the digital evolution goes too fast and is too complicated," says Marc Soubry, staff member at the Flemish Council for the Elderly. From his experience, he sees a few trends among seniors

'There are also many older people for whom the digital evolution goes too fast'.

Basic knowledge is a must

Of course, you must first have the necessary device, an internet connection and basic skills. But even then, seniors often encounter difficulties. They are confronted with problems that each of us have already experienced: websites that are difficult to access and navigate, poor readability, difficult jargon..." says Soubry. 'On top of that, they are uncertain about their online security, have to use different passwords or have trouble downloading applications. Then when they experience problems and there is no one to help them, it can create barriers to being active online.'

'Should I not have the basic knowledge to deal with the internet, I would be missing something in my social relationships,' attests Geneviève. “I've mastered the basics, but I've noticed that new things are appearing all the time. Will I be able to master them? That is a real concern for me.”

We can no longer live without it

“Without the internet or a computer, it feels like something is missing,” says Walter. 'I then miss my view of the outside world and contact with friends and acquaintances.' Ann, too, could no longer live without the internet. 'I would miss contact with family and friends via mail, Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook,' she says.

Seniors can hardly imagine life without the internet, as they also rely on it for financial transactions and contact with the government is largely digitized. 'Internet banking is quite handy, especially now that there is no longer a branch in Merksem,' says Rita, who also deals with her taxes via the internet. Rumolda enlists the help of her daughter for the latter and Linda relies on her husband. 

Over-65s score lowest on willingness to share personal data.

Concerned about security and privacy

Seniors are particularly concerned about their safety. In the Digimeter, people over 65 score the highest when asked if they think carefully before giving an application access to their location, microphone or contact list and the lowest when asked about their willingness to share personal data. And that, of course, is a good reflex. The seniors we spoke with are indeed concerned with their safety online, and they appear to rely mostly on their common sense and the security program on their computer to help them with this.

'At the same time, only 38 percent feel well informed about the risks of cybercrime. In turn, a survey by Statbel indicates that, despite their concerns, people over 65 are the least careful in their actions,' Soubry said. 'This shows that in addition to warnings about the risks of the internet, there is a need to provide clear and user-friendly tips on what we can do ourselves to best protect our privacy and safety online.' 

Considering what seniors do online and the risk they may face in doing so, we think we can offer some useful tips in these three areas:

1. Safe online shopping

The rapid digitalisation of our society also involves some risks. For example, there are criminals who try to deceive us by building fake webshops. Sometimes these even look like trusted webshops, which they imitate very well. Often they are web stores that lure you in with products at exceptional prices. And once you are on their site, they mainly try to trick you into giving them your payment details or money. Many of these sites then make you pay for things they will never deliver to you. 

What do you need to pay attention to in order to shop safely online? Read all about it here.

2. Phishing or malicious emails

What cybercriminals do even more frequently is send misleading emails. Usually, in an e-mail that looks like it comes from your bank, or from a store where you are a customer, the criminals ask you to click on a certain link and leave your personal details. Under no circumstances should you do this! 

The link goes to a very well-crafted website, where you have to fill in a form. This is how criminals get all the data they want from you. Sometimes just clicking on the link is enough to leave all kinds of viruses and malicious programs on your computer.

Abusing your trust on the internet to steal your data is called phishing . We will soon share additional tips and information here on how to adequately protect yourself from phishing. Discover our 5 tips for guarding against phishing.


3. Online contact with the government

For many administrative transactions with the government, you no longer need to go to the counter at the service center in your municipality. This is handy for seniors who are becoming less mobile. There are many useful applications that you can use 24 hours a day, without having to leave your home. 

We all know Tax-on-web by now. It is part of MYMinfin, where you can find and modify your complete tax file and all the data. Via MyPension you can consult everything related to your pension. My Health is an online health portal. This central gateway gives you access to your personal health data and useful information about health in general.

Read some testimonials from seniors who use the internet for communication and administration with the government. Find our tips on how to use these government applications in a correct way.

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.