Older Americans Lack Confidence in Computer Skills

A survey of computer users age 45 and older found that many Americans lack confidence in their ability to conduct personal business transactions on the computer, according to the AARP.

The national telephone poll of 1,000 computer users 45 and over conducted in February. It found that 39 percent are not confident about executing business transactions, including 24 percent who are “not at all confident.”

Older computer users (56 and older), those less highly educated (high school or less), and those earning $50,000 or less express doubts about their proficiency significantly more often than younger users, the study said. The AARP study found that nearly one in four computer users age 45 and older (23 percent) said they never back up their information on an external storage device and one in six never update their programs or applications.

A significant proportion of computer users age 45 and older are potentially at risk in an increasingly technology-driven commercial environment, the study found. The demands posed by electronic financial record-keeping, while probably within the capability of seasoned Internet users, may test the proficiency of sizable subgroups of the population with computers, the study said.

Indicating the potential for a worsening of the so-called “digital divide,” the report noted the need for better computer training for those “less equipped to handle the pace of technological change.”

The AARP survey also found that an overwhelming majority (93 percent) believe that any personal information that they give during a business transaction should remain the property of the consumer and not be shared with other businesses without the permission of that consumer.

Other privacy-related findings include:

  • A large number of respondents (45 percent) would not permit businesses to share their financial information with other businesses under any conditions.
  • Thirty percent of those surveyed would allow information sharing among businesses if they were notified and had the clear option of saying “no.”
  • Among those respondents who said they have never made an Internet purchase, nearly one in four (24 percent) cited concerns about privacy as a key reason for their inaction.

Among those who have undertaken an online transaction, 95 percent said they never have been defrauded or swindled in such a transaction, the survey said. Three percent said they had.

The survey was conducted for the AARP between February 3 and February 27 by Market Facts, Inc. of Arlington Heights, IL. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus three percent.

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