Thumbs up or thumbs down for digital tech? How Covid has changed the way we use technology

Running from May 22-30, Techweek is a nationwide series of events, showcasing New Zealand innovation. It’s not just for tech savvy people or those working in the industry the either – the festival includes events for people of all interest and abilities. To celebrate Techweek, blogs this month will focus on all things technology: first up, we look at two studies that paint digital technology usage by the over-60s in very different lights.

When New Zealand – alongside the rest of the world – was thrown into a lockdown in April 2020 to help contain the Covid-19 outbreak, the way we were able to stay connected with one another changed in an instant. For many people, online communication became the norm as it allowed loved ones to ‘see’ each other, even if it was through a computer screen. But did technology usage change for older people during this period?

Snug, an app that provides a free daily check-in service for people living alone, reported findings from a survey of its users in November 2020. In general, its finding suggest that technology use increased in people aged 60 years and over.

The study found:

  • 48% of respondents have ordered groceries online, and 63% of them are doing it for first time because of quarantine.
  • 47% of respondents have used a telehealth service. 
  • 36% of respondents have attended a religious service online.
  • Zoom is the most popular video calling tool (70%), followed by Facetime (35%), and Facebook messenger (19%). However, while Skype (18%) is still more popular than WhatsApp (10%), its popularity has decreased since the last survey sent out in April.
  • 59% of respondents using an exercise app are doing so because of the quarantine.

As Snug’s users are predominantly American, these results are indicative of technology usage during a lockdown (as the US have only just come out of tight lockdown restrictions in many states). It should be noted that these results are based on responses from people who are reasonably comfortable using digital technology.

Age UK recently released the results of its English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which was carried out in June/July 2020. The study explored the impact the pandemic has had on internet use among people aged 52+ in England and found that while technology usage had increased among this population in general, this increase occurred mostly among people already using the internet regularly.  

Key findings suggest:

  • 75% of people aged 65-74 use the internet every day or almost every day. Yet 42% of people aged 75-plus do not use the internet at all.
  • 39% of people aged 52 or older say they are using the internet more because of Covid-19. However only 24% over people over 75 are using the internet more, while 9% are using it less.
  • Although the over 75s make up the highest proportion of non-users, only 15% of these say they would like to use the internet more. The most common barriers to not wanting to use the internet were: lack of digital skills, lack of trust, and not having access to equipment or broadband.

These studies offer two different perspectives on how technology is being used by older people since the onset of Covid-19. Digital technology can be a great way to stay connected with family and friends, although it’s not right option for everyone. We agree with Age UK’s point that “those who cannot, or do not want to be online should be able to access services and support in a way that suits them.”

Has your technology usage changed since April last year? We’d love to hear from you – let us know by emailing

Photo credit: Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

About Mason Head

Mason Head
Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

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