A question we are often asked relates to seniors and their use of the internet. Our clients quite reasonably want to know if FootFall is relevant to the demographic they are supporting. In other words, if a large percentage of their community is over 65, will their Practice website or our new product, FootFall, be of use to, and used by, them?
It’s a fair question and one into which we have carried out some research. We have all heard of silver surfers, of course, but what proportion of the older population fall into this category?
Our findings have been highly revealing and, we hope, reassuring. Because while it’s true that some seniors are reluctant to use the web, many have begun to embrace it and this trend is accelerating.
Our research into internet use by seniors
Now FootFall has been operating at many GP surgeries nationwide for several months, we have been able to analyse the usage of online requests across different age groups.
We have found:
- 20 per cent of all online requests come from the over 65s.
- Many people in their nineties use the web to ask their doctor or surgery a question in preference to making an appointment or phoning the practice.
- Two different groups of seniors are emerging: younger seniors, aged 65-75, are familiar with the web and have a positive view towards its benefits. Those over 75, often with significant challenges with health or disability, are less active online.
Why are more seniors now online?
As with anything, there’s no one answer but circumstances have come together to make online use for seniors both easier and the preferred option. The Government Digital First Strategy has driven central and local government to put services online, such as renewing car licences, or checking refuse collection days. Many people enjoy this faster, easier access to public services. Indeed, if they choose the traditional route – the phone – delays may be lengthy and the menu options daunting.
The introduction of tablets and their usability, has been popular with seniors, who prefer them to a laptop or desktop.
Web accessibility standards have improved, benefiting those with visual and fine motor skill impairment, the majority of whom are seniors.
The increase in use of social media by seniors to stay connected with family and friends and a rise in the number of courses and assistance available to encourage people to go online (such as those run by libraries and charities) have encouraged take up.
Finally, people now reaching ‘senior’ status are those who, while they may not have grown up with the internet, are very familiar with it.
Why do seniors access GPs via online requests?
- Convenience – online is truly 24/7, with no need to travel or wait in a phone queue.
- No time constraints – people can take as long as they need to complete forms.
- There are benefits for those who find using the phone a challenge, such as the hard of hearing.
- As more people go online, those who won’t or can’t do so then benefit from released telephone capacity.
For many, the web still seems to be the new kid on the block but it is, in fact, 25-years-old. While seniors may have been a little late to the party, they have now arrived and are ready to get stuck in. And it is a fair assumption that this increasingly IT savvy older generation are only going to increase their web use – and that includes accessing practices online.
To find out how other Practices are using FootFall to help them meet patient demands across all demographics, please contact Jane Oddy on 01793 710500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org