Concern for Lincolnshire's 'offline elderly'
A national charity has expressed concern over the number of elderly people in Lincolnshire who are unable to access the Internet.
A survey carried out by Age UK has revealed that 64% of those aged over 65 in the county are 'offline'.
But figures suggest that in affluent Surrey, only 37% do not use the web.
The findings have led to fears that vulnerable older people may be missing out on accessing services that are only available online.
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The charity believes that being unconnected can deprive pensioners of the advantages of opportunities such as emailing relatives and managing their finances online.
Age UK also thinks the problem will worsen as government, council and private services are increasingly delivered via websites to save on staffing costs - leading to older people becoming even more isolated.
The organisation has this week launched its 'iTea and Biscuits' initiative to introduce 'silver surfers' to the web and teach them valuable computer skills.
Research suggests that over-65s who use a PC to regularly email friends and relatives are three times less likely to report feeling lonely than those who do not access the Internet.
Those questioned also commented that using the web allowed them to find out more about their interests and expand their range of hobbies.
“It is concerning that in some parts of the country, more than twice as many older people are able to access the benefits of being online than in other areas, particularly as there appears to be a north/ south divide around Internet use amongst older people," said Age UK's head of digital inclusion David Mortimer.
“The reasons behind this divide are wide and varied. We know for example that women aged 75 and over who live alone are the most likely group in society to have never been online. In addition, older people with lower economic wealth, those living alone and those in relatively worse health are far less likely to be online .
“We hope this data will highlight to the government, local authorities and businesses the work that needs to be done across the country to help older people to get online. More services from the private and public sectors are moving online in a bid to make significant cost savings. However if they want older people to use these services, they need to help them get online in the first place with tailored and on-going support.”
The charity is running several events in the area as part of iTea and Biscuits, with sessions tailored to beginners in a friendly and helpful environment.
Go to www.ageuk.org.uk/itea-and-biscuits to find events in your community or contact Age UK on 0800 1692081.