Sunday, November 22, 2015

Digital exclusion an 'age thing' or a 'age cohort thing'? There is a big difference

Laurie Orlov raises an interesting question in her blog about the likelihood that boomers will be able, or want, to retain their digital literacy. Well that is not exactly how she puts it but I think that is what she means.

The question is this... is there something about ageing that means people lose interest in 'keeping up' with technology or is the lack of digital skills that we see with today's older people (the 70+ age cohort) a one-off phenomena?

I had always subscribed to the age-cohort explanation, however, I am beginning to rethink this conclusion. I am surprised at the number of older people, some of my friends included, who are happy to keep using their old technology until it stops working. They have no interest in what is going on with the evolution of digital and if anything take an antagonistic attitude to technological change (i.e. I cannot see why people want these apps and keep staring at their smartphones). Of course there is some truth in that!

There is a distinct chance that they will become unable to use the sorts of digital technology that we will see in 5-10 years time.

Now let me give you another example, but in this case where behaviour definitely seems to be associated with age cohorts. Today's papers cover the subject of volunteering and find that instead of it being something that is the natural realm of oldies it is more likely to be a youth thing. I quote:
In a damning survey of charitable attitudes among different age groups, a third of Britons said nothing would persuade them to leave the comfort of the sofa or the warmth of the pub in order to make a difference in their community. This figure rose to 47% of over-55s – compared with just 12% of 18-24s.
These numbers seem a tad extreme but it is definitely my experience that your archetypal Boomer is not that interested in repeating what their parents did and become a cornerstone of the community as a volunteer. This is bad news for charities as they are seeing their volunteers and contributors fading away and not being replaced by the next age group.

Bottom line of this blog posting is that you had better understand the difference between those behaviours and attitudes that are related to ageing and those that are specific to an age cohort. Dick Stroud

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