Over one in four over 50s faced issues accessing services online during lockdown

Research from Texthelp finds over half (56%) of over 50s plan to continue using online services after the pandemic.

Research conducted by Texthelp - the global leader in literacy, numeracy and accessibility technology - in collaboration with YouGov  - revealed that one in four (27%) adults aged over 50 encountered issues when accessing websites during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the over 50s accounting for over 25 million people in the UK (source: ONS), this data suggests older people are struggling to navigate vital services online.

The report, Improving online accessibility for the 'silver surfer’, found that of those that experienced accessibility issues, almost a third (31%) of UK respondents had trouble knowing what to do or what to click on. Nearly half of all users also found that the links in the sites were not working (46%) and 63% of users who experienced issues found the visual layout and design of sites overly complicated. Reading text on websites was also a challenge, with 20% of respondents indicating they would prefer larger text. 22% wanted the content on websites, such as words and instructions, to be easier to understand. 

3 senior men and women using smartphones, tablet computers and laptop computers.

Healthcare: During the first national lockdown, over three quarters (76%) of respondents used online websites and platforms to access healthcare. Over a third (36 %) relied upon websites to order prescriptions, while 13% went online to book appointments. After lockdown ends, 30% still plan to use healthcare services online.

Financial services: 85% of respondents used online services for managing their personal finances during the first national lockdown. 41% of those surveyed used online banking services to view statements and a third (30%) of users used online banking for money transfers. 64% of users plan to use online banking even after lockdown, the biggest response from all the sectors profiled.

Public services: 67% of respondents went online to access public services. During lockdown, checking on bin collection dates was the most common reason (44%) for older people visiting local authority websites. This dwarfed the second and third most used services of checking COVID restrictions (18%) and reviewing council tax (10%). After lockdown ends, 40% of users still plan to use local authority sites to stay informed about government services. 

Retail: 95% of over 50s and over 65s surveyed used online retail sites during lockdown. Amongst this group, 34% regularly shopped for groceries online while only 14% shopped for clothes online. The popularity of shopping online amongst the over 50s is set to continue post-lockdown, with 31% of users planning on doing grocery shopping online and 44% buying other products such as clothing and homeware online. 

With an ageing population and a growing number of ‘silver surfers’ online, accessibility issues like these will continue to grow unless addressed by organisations. With over half of respondents (56%) planning to continue using online services as frequently as when they did during lockdown, websites need to make sure that different accessibility requirements are met. 

Martin McKay, CEO & Founder at Texthelp says: “The pandemic has fast-tracked the transition to digital. Many products and services previously available on the high-street, at a GP surgery or in a shop are now only available online. 

Older generations have been forced to migrate online, where they might have been resistant before. However, our research shows that many private and public organisations are failing to accommodate the needs of older generations. Many websites are built without accessibility in mind and this means certain groups are being locked out of vital services. A quarter of over 50s experienced issues when accessing services or products online – this isn’t a number that we can just ignore. This data should serve as a wake-up call to both public and private sector organisations alike.”

Read the report.