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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
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Use of information technology by older people

This article provides an analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data sources on the use of information technology (IT) by older persons (those aged 65 years and over), including computer usage and Internet access. While people in older age groups are less likely to use a computer or to access the Internet than in the younger age groups, the proportion using these technologies is increasing over time. Older persons are more likely to use their computer and Internet access at home for personal or private use. The older population is proportionally more likely to spend a higher amount each year on goods and services purchased via the Internet than other age groups. However, only a small proportion of older people are accessing government services via the Internet.

In 2002 around one in five older persons used a computer. The proportion of persons using a computer decreased steadily across age groups from a high of 89% for those aged 18-24 years to 55% for those aged 55-64 years, then dropping substantially to 21% for older persons (graph S23.1). The lower use of computers by older persons may be partially explained by their lower exposure to such technology and fewer opportunities to gain computing skills over their lifetime.


Graph S23.1: COMPUTER USE



After experiencing continuous growth in previous years, the proportion of people using a computer appears to have plateaued in 2002. However, while small declines were experienced for the age groups 18-24 years to 45-54 years, the proportion for those aged 55-64 years and 65 years and over continued to grow.

During 2002 most adults reported they were most likely to use a computer at home (81%). Among older persons, 18% were using a computer at home, 10% at other sites and 3% at work (graph S23.2).

Graph S23.2: COMPUTER USE BY SITE - 2002




Older persons were most likely to use their home computer for personal and private purposes (92%). Other uses were educational purposes (19%), work or business purposes (16%) and voluntary or community purposes (13%).

Internet access and use

The number of adults using the Internet continues to grow strongly, though the rate of change is slowing. Internet use rose from 31% of adults in 1998 to 58% in 2002 (graph S23.3). As with computer use, the likelihood that a person had used the Internet decreases with age, with 13% of older people using the Internet in 2002.

Graph S23.3: INTERNET USE




Of the 6.2 million adults who used the Internet at home in 2002, the purpose of Internet use most commonly reported was personal or private purposes (89%). This purpose was also reported by older persons as the most common reason for using the Internet (91%), with other uses including educational purposes (18%), work or business purposes (15%) and voluntary or community purposes (9%) (table S23.4).


S23.4 INTERNET USE AT HOME - 2002

Purpose(a)(b)

Persons aged 18 years
and over who used the Internet at home
Personal
or private
Work or
business related
Educational
or study
Voluntary or
community
Other
Age group (years)
'000
%
%
%
%
%

18-24
1,091
90
18
62
7
2
25-34
1,503
92
46
35
6
2
35-44
1,621
87
49
33
10
1
45-54
1,193
87
49
27
10
2
55-64
597
85
43
22
13
2
65 and over
222
91
15
18
9
2
Total
6,227
89
41
36
9
2

(a) More than one purpose may be nominated.
(b) Percentages are of all people who said they used the Internet.

Source: Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2002 (8146.0).


More Australians are choosing to pay bills or transfer funds via the Internet, increasing over time to one in four (23%) by 2002. Those most likely to pay bills or transfer funds via the Internet were those aged between 25-34 years (36%), decreasing to 4% for the older population (table S23.5).


S23.5 SELECTED INTERNET TRANSACTIONS(a) - 2002

Persons aged
18 years
and over
Accessed the
Internet at
any site(b)
Paid bills or
transferred funds
via the Internet(b)
Purchased or ordered
goods or services via the Internet for private use(b)
Age group (years)
'000
%
%
%

18-24
1,905
84
27
16
25-34
2,907
78
36
24
35-44
2,933
69
30
20
45-54
2,645
58
24
16
55-64
1,884
42
14
10
65 and over
2,230
13
4
2
Total
14,503
58
23
15

(a) More than one transaction may be selected.
(b) Percentages are of all persons aged 18 years and over in each category.

Source: Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2002 (8146.0).


During 2002, 2.2 million or 15% of Australian adults purchased or ordered goods or services via the Internet for private use. However, only 2% of the older population purchased goods or services via the Internet. Proportionally, the category travel and accommodation represented the most common type of purchase (47% of people who used the Internet) for older persons compared with 46% for the entire adult population. Computer software (31%) and financial services (21%) were the next most common purchases for the older population compared with books and magazines (26%) and tickets to entertainment or cinema (30%) for the entire adult population. Proportionally, older people were more likely to purchase goods or services from outside of Australia than younger age groups.

Across all age groups in 2002, two-thirds of the total value of Internet purchases were $1,000 or less. A higher proportion of older persons (44%) spent more than $1,000 on Internet purchases per year than younger age groups, with the 18-24 year age group having the lowest proportion (17%).

More than one in five adults (21%) accessed government services via the Internet for private purposes in 2002. Those least likely to access government services were the older population comprising 2% of all adults who accessed government services. For those adults who accessed government services in 2002 for private purposes, 49% did so to pay bills. Proportionally, the older population were more likely to use the Internet for bill payments (e.g. car registration or rates payments) than other age groups (table S23.6).


S23.6 GOVERNMENT SERVICES(a) ACCESSED VIA THE INTERNET FOR PRIVATE PURPOSES - 2002
Electronic lodgement of
Information or services for


Persons who accessed government services via the Internet for private purposes
Bill payments
(e.g. rates and car registration)
Tax
returns
Applications for permits, etc.
Taxation
Employment/
unemployment
Pensions or
other benefits
Age group (years)
'000
%
%
%
%
%
%

18-24
475
29
22
5
12
39
*4
25-34
923
53
18
7
22
23
5
35-44
804
55
21
9
21
15
5
45-54
527
51
21
12
22
14
7
55-64
235
42
20
*6
23
8
10
65 and over
61
59
*18
**5
*15
**2
*17
Total
3,024
49
20
8
20
20
6

(a) More than one service may be accessed.

Source: Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2002 (8146.0).


Other findings

Analysis of the geographic distribution of the use of IT by older people in 2001 shows the proportion of those using a computer at home generally decreased from 10% in Major Urban areas (populations of 100,000 people and over) to 8% in both Other Urban areas (populations of 1,000 to 99,999 people) and Bounded Localities (rural areas with populations of 200 to 999 people), while the proportion of older people using a computer at home in less populated rural areas (Rural Balance) was 11%. The same pattern was evident for access to the Internet by older persons, with proportions similar for the Rural Balance (7%) and Major Urban areas (7%) decreasing to 5% for Other Urban areas and 5% for Bounded Localities (graph S23.7).

Graph S23.7: COMPUTER USE AND INTERNET ACCESS BY SECTION OF STATE(a), Persons(b) aged 65 years and over - 2001




This higher proportion of computer use and Internet access by older Australians in the Rural Balance is associated with the continued growth in the use of such technology by farmers.

An examination of the barriers to the use of technology shows the majority (74%) of adult Internet users did not order goods and services via the Internet during 2002 with a third stating they have no need or had not bothered to try. This was also the main reason stated by the older population for not ordering via the Internet (36%). Security concerns were higher in the 25-44 years age group (32%) and the 45-64 years age group (33%) than the older persons (26%). Privacy and trust concerns were least likely reasons for the older age group (graph S23.8).

Graph S23.8: MAIN REASON FOR NOT PURCHASING VIA THE INTERNET - 2002




References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2002, cat. no. 8146.0, ABS Canberra.

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