Pressing the Right Buttons

New Users of the Internet at Older Ages

How and why would older people, who had never used the internet, attend training courses in order to gain basic online competency skills? What were their feelings before and after the training? These were the questions that Age UK posed, and they commissioned Qa to investigate.

Aims of the research

The primary aim of the research was to better understand how and why older people (aged 55+) who had never used the internet, started to attend training courses to gain basic online competency skills.

The study sought to engage with individuals who had attended /used one of following online courses:

  • An Age UK course
  • A UK Online Centre course
  • A course through another provider.

Undertaking the research

We conducted 36 face to face in-depth interviews with older people who had accessed an internet/computer course for the first time.

The majority of interviewees were 65+ and retired, with only a minority still in work or looking for work.

Interviewees were asked to talk a little bit about themselves at the start of the interview, including a description of a typical day in their lives.

They were then asked to describe their feelings and knowledge about the internet and other forms of technology before attending any training course, to identify the ‘triggers’ that motivated them to want to learn and the barriers they had to overcome to do so.

Awareness of available training courses and how they felt after the training was also investigated.

Key Findings

The study revealed:

  • The benefits of taking part in a course need to be made clear to potential participants.
  • Case studies, or the opportunity to meet people that have taken internet use a step further could be particularly beneficial.
  • For those experiencing high levels of computer (or learning) anxiety, a pre-course assessment/one to one session may be useful in allaying any initial fears.
  • For some of the more isolated and hardest to reach groups, physical accessibility was a key influencing factor when considering a course.
  • It is evident that family members play a key role in channelling information about internet course and in encouraging /persuading.

You can read the full published report on the Age UK website:

What the client said about the research:

Marcus Green, Research Adviser at Age UK said:

“I think it is a superb piece of work as do a number of my colleagues. It has been a pleasure working with you all.”

What the researcher said:

Rebecca Gulc, Research Manager for the project said:

“With the move towards ‘digital by default’ services and 3.24 million people aged 75 years and over being non-users of the internet this piece of research was integral for Age UK (and partners) to have a greater understanding of what can make an older person make the transition from being a non-internet user to someone who has gained basic online skills competency.

Our research found that those making this transition are far from one homogenous group and can be categorised into three key core categories, the ‘active resistors’ ‘the curious’ and ‘the purposeful’. The research will help ensure that resources for promoting digital inclusion are used effectively and take into account the different types of non-users and new-users and the different types of barriers they may be facing.”