Rise in 'silver surfers' as over-65s learn computer skills

Olivia Rudgard
Over-65s are getting better at using computers  - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The proportion of "silver surfers" using the internet to keep in touch with family members has doubled in six years, figures show. 

Experts said middle-class pensioners were increasingly comfortable using the internet to speak to family and search for information online.

New ONS data shows that the proportion of over-75s who have used the internet recently has increased from 19.9 per cent in 2011 to 40.5 per cent in 2017. 

The proportion of younger pensioners who use the internet - those aged between 65 and 74 - has increased from 52 per cent in 2011 to 77.5 per cent in 2017. 

Dr Ellen Helsper, associate professor in media and communications at the London School of Economics, said that middle-class pensioners were increasingly likely to use the internet because they had learned to use it in their day-to-day work. 

"The influence of family and friends is also very important - if the people around us and the people close to us are using the internet then we are more likely to.

"This age group has always been more politically active and so even though that kind of activity is generally quite low online, that is one of the things they are using it for - things like emailing their MP," she added. 

The largest increase was among women aged between 65 and 74. Men are larger internet users than women, and in 2011 57 per cent had used it recently compared to 47 per cent of women. 

The proportion of women had increased to 76 per cent by 2017, to almost the same level as men. 

"That increase is likely to be down to those women who come from careers where they have worked with computers, such as secretarial or care work, which has been quick to embrace new technology," said Dr Helsper.

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