Internet skills 'can help old people overcome loneliness' header image

Teaching elderly people how to use the internet can help them to overcome loneliness.

This is according to a new report from think tank Policy Exchange, which has called for older Britons to be shown how to complete basic tasks on the internet such as sending emails and using social networks.

Eddie Copeland, author of the report, stated: "In an increasingly isolated and fast-moving world it is vital that everyone in society is able to use the internet and understand its benefits.

"From alleviating social isolation, bringing together communities, paying bills and now accessing public services, online can improve lives."

The report estimated the cost of teaching enough elderly people basic online skills so that everyone in the UK can make use of the internet by 2020 would reach £875 million, which is roughly just over £140 per person.

Britain's population of people aged 85 and over is expected to double in the next 20 years and Policy Exchange said teaching these individuals how to enjoy the benefits of the web would bring "huge" economic and social benefits for the UK.

Loneliness is already considered to be a growing problem among the country's elderly population and the report said this will only escalate in the future as families move further apart for work. Should older individuals be able to send and receive emails and use social networks it will enable them to maintain contact with friends and family regardless of their location.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year revealed slightly more than a third (37 per cent) of people aged 75 and older have never used the internet. This age group accounts for a large proportion of the 6.4 million adults (13 per cent) who have not been online. 

Andrew Kaye, of charity Independent Age, told the BBC he welcomes the Policy Exchange's findings, but warned online access is not the sole solution to tackling the elderly loneliness problem.