UCLL: The Elderly Community are Embracing Digital Communication

Study Shows That Most Elderly People In Cyprus, Greece, Belgium And Italy Have Embraced Digital Communication And A Large Majority Uses The Smartphone Daily

Society is evolving and digital means are becoming inevitable in our daily life. Among senior citizens, this does not come naturally. They have an increased risk of low digital literacy and digital exclusion. Results from the Digital Inclusion Barometer[1] show that the digital divide in this target group is widening because they have fewer digital skills and many find using digital communication tools challenging, which can result in isolation and missing  opportunities for active citizenship.

To tackle these challenges, people older than 60 have been the centre of focus for a study conducted in 4 countries that participate in the BETA project: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Respondents from the study population were asked to complete a questionnaire in May and June 2023. The participants of our final survey were 282 persons above the age of 60 years in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. We asked them to tell us about their digital habits.

How and why

The results show that the most popular digital device was by far the smartphone, used daily by more than 90% of those asked, and the least popular the desktop computer. Digital devices were primarily used for communication purposes, followed by the reading of daily news and relaxation activities. The elderly used online buying and selling services only rarely. The most popular communication application was WhatsApp, followed by Viber, this latter being enormously popular in Greece but relatively unknown in Belgium.

The majority of the elderly recognised the efficiency and importance of digital communication and was curious to learn how to use digital devices. Additional motivational factors were the need to communicate with family members and the intention to keep up with the digitalisation of everyday business, such as banking.


 The majority of the elderly admitted that having to learn a lot in order to participate in digital communication was the most important challenge. Luckily, they were often supported in this by family members, but if those family members were not available, in many cases they discovered themselves how to use digital devices. Visual aspects of digital communication formed another challenge: these include the size of the screens, the functionality of touchscreens as well as the meaning of icons.
Fortunately, the majority of the elderly found digital communication to be a positive development and fun. Half of those asked agreed that they felt comfortable to communicate digitally, felt part of society through this and felt part of the digital world.

[1] Mariën & Brotcorne, 2020

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