In his message, the UN secretary-general said that as each individual faces the challenge of navigating the world’s growing reliance on technology, “perhaps no population can benefit more from support than the elderly.”
For Antonio Guterres, these technologies can help older citizens stay connected with loved ones, attend religious services, or take up positions.
“All of this work and much more is increasingly being done online, especially as individuals and communities struggle with the restrictions imposed in response to the Kovid-1 pandemic epidemic,” he said.
The key to digital defense
Older people are often further isolated during epidemics and are also at risk of increasing exposure to cybercrime.
Mr Guterres said: “While taking all possible measures to hold unscrupulous criminals accountable for the abuse of older people, we must work to strengthen the digital skills of adults as an important defense, and to find ways to improve their well-being.”
For him, older people are much more than a vulnerable group: “They are the source of knowledge, experience and rich contributions to our collective progress.”
The Secretary-General further argued that while older people could access and use new technologies, they would be better equipped to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He called for more inclusive policies, strategies and actions to achieve digital equality for people of all ages.
Despite rapid digital innovation and indicative growth, half of the world’s population remains off-line, with stark contrast between the most developed countries (87%) and the least developed countries (19%). Women and the elderly also face digital discrimination.
In Europe, for example, only one in four older Europeans has basic or more basic digital skills, compared to two in three between the ages of 35 and 44; According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), three out of four people aged 25-34 and four out of five young people (16-24).
A survey from 2001 shows that in the European Union, 98 percent of survey respondents between the ages of 5 and 5 are at least occasionally involved in Internet activity, compared to 1 to 2 of those aged 2 years.
Barriers are different, including digital devices or Internet access, lack of skills, experience and confidence. Technical design also makes engagement at an age more challenging, when some physical or cognitive impairment occurs.
Stimulated by aging
All of these issues should become clearer as the world’s population grows.
Worldwide, there were 703 million people aged 65 or over in 2019. In the next three decades, the number of elderly people worldwide could more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion people by 2050.
Least Developed Countries (LDCs), excluding LDCs, will be home to two-thirds (1.1 billion) of the world’s elderly population by 2050.
The fastest growth is expected to occur in the least developed countries, where the number of people aged 65 and over could rise from 37 million in 2019 to 120 million (225%) in 2050.