There has been a dramatic increase of internet users over sixty years of age

Published: 8 May 2018

Within months, half of those over sixty years of age will be using the internet if the current trends continue – according to one of the findings of the latest annual survey on the use of telecommunications services of the population conducted by the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH). From 2016 to 2017, the rate of senior citizens using the internet in one form or another on a daily basis suddenly increased from 33 to 44 percent. The possibility of keeping in touch with distant family members in a cheap and direct manner is a continuous incentive, whilst the devices suitable for browsing online are also becoming easier to use.

For years, NMHH has been conducting comprehensive, national surveys in various subjects, including the internet use of the population as well as continuously examining the use of various telecommunications services. The highlighted results of this research, as well as the detailed summary of relevant data and its interrelatedness are publicly available through the Authority’s website. The surveys are conducted with the purpose of allowing the NMHH to precisely see and understand the telecommunications-related habits and opinions of consumers, whilst reliable estimates can be made on changes over time thanks to regularly repeated surveys conducted with identical methodology. One of the most remarkable results of recent surveys concerns the elderly.

The internet use of the elderly is still fundamentally a financial and cultural issue.

Just as before, the latest data also shows that internet use amongst the elderly is primarily and financial question and secondly a matter of culture. Those of the sixty-plus age group access the worldwide web the most who live in well-equipped homes and have begun using smart phones as mobile devices in the recent past. The previous surveys of NMHH showed that the purchase of computers and internet subscriptions usually go hand in hand: when a family purchases a computer, they also have an internet subscription. However, if the survey is only limited to traditional social-demographic characteristics, it also reveals that in the case of the elderly, it is mostly money that determines whether they access the digital world or not. Naturally, based on the data, there is a greater chance for better educated senior citizens – who do not live alone – living in advantageous geographical locations with developed infrastructure to use the internet, yet the greatest factor is the family’s per capita income. This factor is so strong that – with the exception of those with only primary school education – regardless of education, there is a far greater share of those discovering the online world amongst senior citizens with a better financial situation than those who live on more limited financial resources.


Corresponding with family members living in distant locations is a great attraction

The internet usage of the elderly is not merely influenced by their own lives, but also by their family members and immediate surroundings: the demand to keep in touch with family members living in distant locations – in the cheapest and most favorable way as possible – is a highly important factor. For example, since the beginning of the decade, the use of Skype amongst the elderly has not fallen short of the habits of the younger generations and has proven to be a superb way of maintaining a live connection with children and grandchildren. Additionally, the spread of tablets and smart phones which are easier to master and use by the elderly has reached such an extent that many senior citizens started using the internet as a necessity or due to encouragement. This effect can be witnessed in the online activities of elderly citizens as well as in their use of smart phones. For example, compared to recent years, the share of elderly smart phone users has doubled and although this still represents a low level (28 percent), an increase of such extent has not been witnessed in any other age group.

The sixty-plus age group has caught up to the others in browsing

Those over sixty years of age mostly spend their time browsing while using the world wide web. Excluding the distortive effect of workplace internet use and focusing solely on home internet use, the data shows that the elderly perform less of all the activities than others, with the exception of general browsing or “surfing”, which they now perform with the same routine as others. Additionally, there is no significant difference in the field of social media use: two-thirds of them are Facebook users, every second elderly uses some form of chat program and four out of ten have discovered Youtube. However, the greatest motivation for the elderly seems to be maintaining ties with those living far away: over the past one year, text and speech-based chatting was the online activity which spiked (from 42 to 52 percent) and it is clear from the data that the new entries chat in a greater percentage than those who have been using the internet for a longer period of time.

A few years ago, the Hungarian grandparent-aged population was falling behind

Whilst in the early 2010s, the Czech Republic and Slovakia gradually caught up to the EU average in the region, Hungary – and Poland – seemed to gradually fall behind. In the mid-decade – corresponding to the EU average – half of the Czech and Slovakian citizens between 65 and 74 years of age said they never used the internet, whilst 75-80 percent of the same age group reported the same in Hungary and Poland. NMHH’s comprehensive survey from 2014 clearly showed that at the time, the lack of information and experience were the greatest obstacles (for the elderly and their surroundings) for the elderly to start using and wanting to learn how to use the internet.

With the spread of the internet and the increasing online presence of services available to the society, it is becoming increasingly important for all social groups, including the elderly – as well as those faced with disadvantages – to access the digital world and its opportunities. The results of the new survey are also highly important and positive social indicators as it is precisely the lives of the sixty-plus generation that can be greatly assisted through the use of the worldwide web, providing them with far more support than the younger generations. This can help them overcome physical distances, avoid having to carry heavy loads or waiting for extended periods of time when dealing with administration.