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UK GOVERNMENT: Older people banish technology fear in Christmas spree

Story Filed: Tuesday, December 07, 1999 2:58 PM EST

DEC 7, 1999, M2 Communications - Britain is experiencing a boom in the number of older people using the internet with home computers tipped to be at the top of more over-50s' Christmas wish-lists than ever before.

More than one million 'silver surfers' are now aboard the internet wave in Britain - an all-time high.

The Better Government for Older People programme - part of the Cabinet Office's Modernising government initiative - has launched a raft of initiatives nationwide to open up the world of information technology to people over 50.

Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Ian McCartney, said: "Across Britain we are experiencing a sea-change in older people's attitudes to the internet. More and more people are just as likely to 'drag and drop' as 'bingo and shop'.

"Older people are banishing traditional stereotypes as Government schemes open up a new world of opportunity through IT. This is a prime example of the progress being made by the Modernising government programme.

"IT can play a major part in improving quality of life for older people - giving them quicker and easier access to vital information including mobility, transport and health."

Initiatives launched by the Better Government for Older People programme include:

* setting up 28 pilot projects across the country who are promoting the use of IT among older people through free taster sessions, older people's festivals and courses in libraries and colleges;

* launching a national website, sponsored by ICL, which older people can use to find out what new opportunities exist for them;

* launching local directories containing information on IT opportunities for older people such as courses, access and details of interesting sites;

* a series of major conferences for local authority and older people's organisations to promote IT for older people; and

* providing more opportunities for older people through libraries, kiosks, community locations and home PCs, again with support from ICL.

Martin Shreeve, Director of Better Government for Older People, added:

"Older people's lifestyles can be greatly enhanced by these high-tech developments, whether in hobbies and leisure, learning, voluntary activity, the arts, or home safety. Older people can also use IT to keep in touch with friends and family at times like Christmas and throughout the year."


1. The number of over 50s using the internet has more than doubled since 1996. Of the 46 million adult residents in the UK, 12.5 million used the internet in the past month (October 1999). Of these 11 per cent or 1,375,000 were over 50-years-old. Older people with access to computers actually spend more time online than younger people - ten hours a week compared to seven.

2. The Government has committed half a billion pounds to the establishment of new Information and Communication Technology learning centres. The target is a national network of computer learning centres, which will be in schools, colleges, libraries, Internet cafes and drop-in centres on the high street.

3. The Government has introduced many measures to help Britain's pensioners. These include:

* free eye tests for the over 60s;

* a five-fold increase in the winter fuel allowance from GBP20 to GBP100 this winter and subsequent years for all pensioner households;

* a cut in VAT on fuel to 5%;

* a minimum income guarantee to raise the standard of living for the poorest pensioners with a minimum income of GBP75 a week for single pensioners and GBP116.60 for couples; and

* free TV licences for all pensioners over 75 from next autumn.

4. Better Government for Older People is a two year programme, supported by central and local government and older people's organisations. These include the Cabinet Office, Age Concern England, Warwick University, Help the Aged, the Local Government Association, Anchor Trust and Carnegie Third Age Programme. The programme's website can be visited at www.bettergovernmentforolderpeople.gov.uk

5. The pilot projects have already demonstrated real benefits for older people:

* a higher profile for ageing issues and the ageing agenda;

* greater opportunities to contribute to policy and service planning;

* services changing to meet needs better; and

* more opportunities for education and employment;

6. The 28 pilot projects are in: Bolton; Bury; Coventry; Devon; Hackney; Hammersmith & Fulham; Harrow; Hartlepool; Kensington & Chelsea; Lambeth; Middlesbrough; Newcastle; North Down; North Yorkshire; Nottinghamshire; Oxfordshire; Rhondda Cynon Taff; Scottish Borders; Sheffield; Solihull; South Lanarkshire; Stirling, Warwick; Watford, Waverley; Wolverhampton; Ynys Mon and York.

7. Media interviews are available with Cabinet Office Minister Ian McCartney, Programme Director, Martin Shreeve, local agencies and older people involved with the pilot projects.

8. For more information, contact the Cabinet Office press office on 0171-270 0375 or call Stephen Burke, Press Office or Martin Shreeve, Director of Better Government for Older People, on 01902-824270 (out of hours 0181-740 7877).

Issued By: 

Cabinet Office 

Press Office 

70 Whitehall 



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