Training elderly to use internet 'could tackle loneliness'

Loneliness among the elderly could be tackled if the Government would train them to use the internet, a think-tank has said. Policy Exchange warned four out of 10 people over 65 do not have access to the internet.

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Your views: Internet 'no substitute for closeness'

ITV News readers have responded to calls for the government to tackle loneliness with internet training, with many welcoming the suggestion but others insisting the net is no substitute for contact with people.

Among the comments on our Facebook page:

I use it every day but it [doesn't] fill the gap like human company I'm afraid.

– Helen Dunn

Taught my 74 year old grandad how to use skype and he loves being about to speak to his brother and sister and great grandkids

– Cheryl Liversuch

Yes it would [help] but alot of elderly can't even afford heating and food, let alone a new PC and internet

– Neil Goch

Rantzen: 'Loneliness is alleviated by relationships'

The chronic loneliness some elderly people suffer from can only be relieved by relationships, so if the internet is to help it has "link people to people", Esther Rantzen told Good Morning Britain.

The former TV presenter, who set up a helpline to combat loneliness in the elderly, believed teaching OAPs how to use the internet could help, but warned many felt out of their depth with the technology.

"A lot of the generation that Silver Line works with...are not comfortable with the internet. It frightens them. They think it is a whole new set of skills they have to learn."


Think-tank: 'Vital' everyone has access to internet

The dominance of the internet means it is "vital" everyone has access to the web, the author of a report into loneliness in the elderly has said.

Eddie Copeland, report author for think-tank Policy Exchange, said:

In an increasingly isolated and fast moving world it is vital that everyone in society is able to use the internet and understand its benefits.

From alleviating social isolation, bringing together communities, paying bills and now accessing public services, online can improve lives.

Being able to simply write an email or access a social networking site could provide older people with a way to stay connected to their friends and families, who may live hundreds of miles away.

– Eddie Copeland

Report: 'Tackle loneliness with internet training'

The number of lonely elderly people can be brought down if they are given proper internet training by the Government, a think tank has said.

Some five million OAPs have never used the internet, Policy Exchange found. Credit: PA

Policy Exchange said four out of 10 people aged over 65 did not have internet access at home, but training them how to use software like Skype or instant messenger would only cost £141 per person.

The overall cost of education OAPs in how to use the internet, 6.2 million, would be offset by the "huge" economic and social benefits for the UK, the think-tank said.

Tackling isolation could prove to be one of the most effective strategies for countering the rising costs of caring for an ageing population, the think-tank said.

The initial investment in training would be offset by savings of around £1.7 billion a year as people moved to digital rather than paper-based and telephone transactions, it added.

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