Seán Crowe T.D. has described recent figures from Eurostat that show 50 per cent of people in Ireland aged between 65 and 74 have never been online, compared with a 16 per cent in Britain, as another example of how older people in Ireland are being left behind. The Sinn Féin TD said he fully supports Age Action Ireland’s calls for urgent support to tackle high rates of digital exclusion among older people, who are in danger of being left behind in an increasingly online Ireland.

Deputy Seán Crowe said: “We are thankfully all living longer and should be living more full and inclusive lives, but unfortunately that is not the case. Figures released from Eurostat show that 50 per cent of people in Ireland aged between 65 and 74 have never been online compared with 16 per cent in Britain.

“Surely it is unacceptable that an entire generation of older people are being left behind, cut off from all of the opportunities and benefits of being able to use a tool like the internet. “Far fewer older people in Ireland are online compared with Britain and we also fall behind many of our other EU neighbours. As service providers, like banks, are increasingly pushing customers to do their business online, this is making life increasingly difficult for senior citizens to get information and to access services.

“Everyone knows there are enormous social benefits for older people who are online and new research suggests it can actually reduce depression among older people by as much as 30 per cent.

“For many older people the internet and internet based apps are a vital link to friends and families, a way to explore new hobbies and interests, and to a new world of opportunities and possibilities. “The Government’s training programmes have helped tens of thousands people get online, but the stark gap in internet use by older people in Ireland when compared to our EU neighbours shows how much we need to improve.”

Crowe continued: “Age Action has identified a number of barriers preventing older people getting online including ageism, a lack of confidence, the absence of broadband locally, and cost.
“In June a new Telephone Support Allowance of €2.50 a week was introduced for those who qualify for the means-tested Fuel Allowance and live alone. This welcome but doesn’t really address the issue. “A broadband-only deal could cost as much as €50 a month, which is a lot for someone on the State Pension. Older people, particularly those living alone, should not be priced off the internet.

“The promised new funding is very welcome but it’s far smaller than the old Telephone Allowance used to be and it is restricted to a small number of people. I am calling on the Government to increase it substantially in the next budget.”