During December 2010 and January 2011, we conducted an online survey of information and communication technology (ICT) users over the age of 60. We have completed the initial collating of these results and they provide a snapshot of internet and mobile phone usage by those older members of the population who are able and willing to participate in an online survey. We are making the result of the online Mature Age ICT Users survey available in an Excel file for other researchers to download and use as they wish.
The online survey is the first phase of an ongoing research project being conducted by Roger Hudson, Peter Hindmarsh and Russ Weakley. The overall aim of the project is learn more about the use of the Internet and mobile phones by people over the age of 60, get a better understanding of the problems they encounter when using them, and hopefully offer some practical solutions about how they might be addressed. The other two components of the project which we are doing at this time are:
* A physical-world survey with participants of same age group using the same questions as those in the online survey
* Qualitative interviews with the physical-world survey participants, using different mock-ups of a web page to stimulate discussion about issues they might encounter when using the web.
The online Mature Age Internet Users survey provided useful results from 124 participants after we had removed the erroneous contributions from participants whose minds may not have been fully on the job or who may have been up to mischief. We got contributions from people across the whole age-range of the survey (60 to 85+) with over half the participants aged between 60 and 74. We would like to thank all the participants for their survey responses and comments.
We recognise the general limitations of online surveys such as this and hope that the physical-world surveys will go some way towards addressing them. We also acknowledge that there are some specific failings in the structure of this survey and the wording of some questions. And, with hindsight we realise that we could have dropped some of the questions and there are other questions we could have asked. We plan to do some more online and physical world surveys in the future focusing on obtaining more detailed information about specific issue.
Initial overview of online survey results
As might be expected with a web survey, the vast majority of the participants indicated they used the internet everyday (93%) which is significantly higher than is the case with general internet usage surveys, for example the “PEW Internet and Lifestyle” 2009 survey in the US which found that 38% of adults over the age 65 use the internet at least sometimes.
We are still to analyse the survey results in detail, but one thing is clear the myth that older people mainly use the web to research their family history is clearly that, a myth, with fewer than 10% indicating they often use the internet for genealogical research. It seems to us that in general, people over the age of 60 use the web for much the same reasons as their younger counterparts. In relation to questions about how often they use the web to keep up with the news, to buy books and groceries, to find information, and to stay in touch with family and friends, about 75% of participants indicted they used the web ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ for these purposes. Two possible areas of difference are: Participation in online auctions with 33% of participants indicating they had done so at some time; And, the use of social networking sites and tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with 54% indicating they use them at least once a week (compared for example with “PEW Generation 2010” survey which found that “73% of Teen and 83% of Millennials (ages 18-33) use social network sites”.
Peter and I are currently sorting the 39 physical-world surveys and qualitative interviews we conducted and as soon as the results are available I will post them on this site.
We are also planning to write a few more articles which will look in detail at specific areas of interest which we believe have emerged from the surveys and interviews. These articles will consider the similarity and differences in the results obtained from the physical-world surveys and interviews when compared to the results of the online survey. They will also outline some of concerns and difficulties that older users of the web might have and discuss the use of the web and social networking tools for the delivery of government and commercial information and services.
I will be discussing the results of this research in a paper, “Improving Web Accessibility for the Elderly“, which I am presenting at CSUN 2011 on March 16. The paper will also outline some of the issues older web users have with font size and colour, and canvass various options for how they might be addressed.