A person uses a mobile device, their hands show signs of advanced age.

Age is NOT the Barrier: Inaccessible Websites and Non-compliant Digital Documents are the Barrier

In the digital sphere, people in the ‘autumn of life’ are too often forgotten. This generally refers to omitting the 50+ generation from your company’s online public-facing presence. But strong considerations must also be made for Internet users over 65. With this in mind, we should consider that many more people benefit from digital accessibility than is most often assumed, and in and of itself, age is not the barrier.

Does the 65+ generation use the Internet? YES!

Often, an incorrect assumption is made that those who are advanced in age never use the Internet or do so irregularly. When looking broadly at age distribution, it remains true that of all age categories, 65-74-year-olds are the group that contains the highest proportional number of non-users of online resources.

In fact, in some regions around the world, it is estimated that 15-25% of this group is ‘offline’. But let’s consider what this means in reverse. Contrary to what you might suspect, people over 65 are by no means automatically non-users of the online realm. In fact, most people use the Internet, even when they are older. The only real difference: their needs are often not being met in today’s digital landscape. Companies aren’t opening their digital front doors to everyone.

The numbers reveal some gaps to solve

Even if the 65+ generation statistically holds the most significant proportional number of non-users of the internet and online resources versus other age groups, it is unwise to paint everyone in this age category with the same brush. Within this 65+ age category in 2023:

  • Approximately 30% used online banking
  • About 45% searched for goods and services online
  • Nearly 60% have purchased something online
  • In the last few months, just under half in this age category partook in online shopping.

Even if numbers are higher among younger groups of people, there is by no means a low number of people of advanced age who are active in the online world. Without the barriers that exist today on websites and within digital documents, there could be significantly more. That means more customers, a larger audience, and undoubtedly a greater business case.

How many people of advanced age are affected by visual impairments?

Not all visual impairments and eye diseases are present from birth. Many people are also affected later in life, some of them due to age. It is difficult, however, to find precise data. In the statistics on severe disabilities, often the most serious limitation is usually quantified. As a result, numbers of less severe but existing visual problems are often left out.

There are, however, indications. If you consider individual diseases in detail, for example, “age-related macular degeneration (AMD)”, it paints a larger picture. AMD leads to visual field loss and distortions that continue to worsen with age. In industrialized countries, the disease is responsible for around 50% of blindness cases among people over 65 years of age. 

But there is an important sidenote that comes with this reality. When statistics are published about blindness, quite often, people with “severe visual impairment” are not taken into account. This means that the number of unreported cases of people with visual impairment is most likely significantly higher.

What do these unexpectedly larger numbers tell us?

Most people, regardless of their age, are interested and open to the Internet and e-commerce. Most of the Internet doesn’t approach this enthusiasm with the same openness. Barriers remain everywhere. They prevent a large segment of the 65+ generation from being able to use the Internet to the same extent as their younger peers.

The business case

From a purely economic perspective, it makes impeccable business sense to rectify this. The 50+ generation today has nearly every second dollar of discretionary purchasing power. Due to this rapid demographic change globally, this number will continue to shift towards 65- to 74-year-olds. Therefore, what might appear to be additional costs in the short term is a benefit for everyone in the long term. And those benefits pertain to companies and clients alike. The advantages created by addressing digital and document accessibility for your company are universal.

By addressing these gaps in the delivery of your content, communications and online presence, you dramatically improve your customer’s ability to do business with you. Your company has evolved into a more digital and paperless business. The way you engage an aging population must follow suit. After all, it’s no longer something niche or ‘nice to have’, it’s a moral imperative… and it is the law.

Whether you are just getting on the starting line with accessibility, or are already well into your journey, CDP Communications can help. With web audits, document accessibility solutions for desktop, or even automated solutions for high-volume enterprise digital documents, CDP has you covered.

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