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  • Writer's pictureRichard Irvine


Updated: Apr 13, 2022

By Chris Stride

I was somewhat perplexed when I heard, on Radio 4, Lisa Nandy criticising the government’s

“Homes for Ukraine” refugee scheme. One of her several criticisms was that, if you want to apply

and be vetted to offer your home to a refugee family, the whole process has to be conducted online. She observed that a high proportion of those interested in taking part in the scheme were older people and “older people are not connected to the internet”.

Really? This is such an outdated stereotype of older people.

If you think about it, these older people are actually ‘Baby Boomers’. They have grown up with,

and still hold dear, a whole set of values different from earlier generations. They grew up in the

Sixties and Seventies, experienced at first hand the rebellion against the establishment, the

challenge to old values, the creation of a youth culture, the ‘now’ generation of the Beatles, the

Rolling Stones, Dylan and Woodstock.

They themselves may not have been active participants in the swinging youth culture but that

culture had formed a backdrop to their formative years or, as young adults, they had in the social changes that had been created during those years. Today they have not bowed to a

particular stereotype of being ‘old’ and continue to do the same things as they did when they

were younger, the kinds of things that the younger generation do too. This includes the adoption

of technology and use of the internet.

Lisa Nandy is wrong, older people do use the internet, as data from the Office of National

Statistics bears out.

In the UK usage of the internet is pretty universal. In 2020 92.1% of all adults had used the

internet “in the last three months”. Unsurprisingly, usage was highest with the young, 99.5% of

16-34 year olds using the internet. But the percentage of older people going online was not far

behind; 94.6% of 55-64 year olds and 85.5% of 65-74 year olds. The percentage drops off

sharply 75+, but it is still more than half (54.0%).

Our interviews with older people suggest that, while they may not be ‘digital natives’, they are

confident in their use of laptops, tablets and smart phones.

But they do engage with the digital world differently from younger generations. While they use

their smart phones to phone, text and email, they prefer the larger screen of the tablet or laptop to browse, to use social media, to shop or to compose anything of length. They want to be able to

gather and consume information before making decisions and actively engaging, much in the way that they would have used print media. They use the internet as a tool.

In contrast, they observe that their children and their children’s contemporaries have the digital

world more embedded into their lives, doing everything on their smart phones including playing

games, listening to music, even watching movies. The younger generation are happy to put their

lives in the public domain in a way with which older people are less comfortable.

But in terms of being able to manage the application and vetting process for “Homes for Ukraine”, older people are more than capable of doing so online. Of course some older people are genuinely ‘elderly’ and infirm, but I would suggest that those older people who are actively

following the Ukraine crisis, who have become passionately engaged in the refugee crisis, who

want to offer space in their home to refugees do not fall into this latter category.

So, Ms Nandy, whatever criticism you may wish to make against the Government’s Ukraine

Refugee policy, please do not resort to outdated stereotypes of the elderly. Not only is it

inaccurate, it is also patronising to those older people who wish to play their part.

Written by Chris Stride

Contributing columnist for A3A Agency for the Third Age

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