Despite increasing numbers of older adults accessing the internet, most still use significantly fewer digital applications and spend less time online than younger adults.

To examine why this might be, researchers at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom embarked on a series of interviews with older adults.

In a paper published in the Association for Computing Machinery’s magazine Communications, they found that, in addition to issues with usability and accessibility, personally held values having to do with the desirability of technology, wider concerns regarding its impact on society and fears of getting things wrong when using software are also significant factors holding back technology use among older adults.

Many participants said they worry that online shopping takes business from local shops, and eradicates the social benefits of daily face-to-face contact from shopping in person. They’re also concerned that if they don’t go into the bank or the post office, these facilities may close and people will lose their jobs.

Some participants said they see online tools such as comparison websites as being arduous and time consuming compared to getting recommendations from an expert in person. Security concerns also were omnipresent among the older adults interviewed, with many of them lacking confidence in their own knowledge of how to use online tools properly, for online banking in particular.

“The efficiency gained by conducting online interactions is not a powerful motivator for technology adoption by older adults who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation,” says study co-author Vicki Hanson, Ph.D.

“In many cases, making digital technologies appealing for older adults means ensuring that digital engagements do not replace social interactions, and if possible, facilitate new social and community-building opportunities where they can meet people.”