Digital Lifestyles: Adults aged 60 and over

14 May 2009

Executive summary

This report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among adults aged 60 and over in the UK. The aim of the report is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among this group. It is based on a much larger programme of research – Ofcom’s Media Literacy Audits, which were published in 2008(-1-).

Access and regular use of media

Compared to the general adult population, adults aged 60 and over are less likely to live in households with digital television and the internet, and less likely to regularly use newer media devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players and games consoles. By contrast, regular use of more traditional media such as television and radio is above the level for adults as a whole, and these are the most important media to older adults.

Adults aged 60 and over without home internet access are less likely than the general adult population to say they will get access in the next year, mainly due to voluntary reasons related to a perceived lack of need among this group. However, among those who give an involuntary reason for not intending to get internet access at home, older people differ from the general adult population in that they are more likely to give reasons relating to a lack of understanding of the internet or how to use a computer, and less likely to give reasons relating to affordability.

There are key differences in the take-up of newer media and intention to take up the internet within the population of adults aged 60 and over. These differences relate to age: adults aged in their sixties are more than twice as likely as adults aged 70 and over to be current or likely internet users. Similarly, while most adults aged in their sixties are mobile phone users, this applies to less than half of those aged 70 and over.

Media preferences and use of different functions

Media preferences among adults aged 60 and over are dominated by traditional media, and mobile phones are the only example of newer media used on a regular basis by a substantial minority of all adults aged 60 and over.

Older adults are less likely than all adults to be interested in using the services and functions available to them through digital television, the internet and mobile phones. For example, older adults with a digital television service are less interested in using the interactive services available, and those with a mobile phone are less interested in taking and sending photos using the phone.

As well as being less likely to have access to the internet at home, those older adults who do use the internet use it for fewer activities, and for less time in a typical week, compared to adults as a whole. However, for some types of internet activity the proportion of older adults carrying out activities weekly is comparable to all internet users: transactions (such as online banking), news, and public/civic activities.

Funding and regulation

Awareness of funding and regulation among older adults is generally higher for the more traditional media of television and radio, and lower for the newer media; mobile phones, gaming and the internet.

Confidence, concerns and judgements

Older adults using the internet are less confident than internet users generally in finding what they want online, in using the creative elements available to them, and being able to tell whether a website is truthful and reliable.

While the general adult population has most concerns about the internet, older adults have most concerns about television.

Older adults who use the internet are less likely to make any kind of judgement about a website before entering personal details than are internet users generally, less likely to be happy about entering some personal details online, less likely to use new websites and less likely to make checks before using those new websites that they do visit.


Older people are less likely than the general adult population to be interested in learning about digital technology. Interest in learning more is mostly limited to adults in their sixties, rather than those aged 70 or over. Within the population of adults aged 60 and over, males are more likely to be interested in learning about digital technology than females - this gender difference is also apparent within the general adult population.

Other than a preference for learning through friends and family, older adults are relatively unlikely to have a way they would prefer to learn about digital technology.


  1.-Media literacy of UK adults from ethnic minority groups
Report on UK children’s media literacy
Report on UK adults’ media literacy