Elderly People Turn to the Internet to Combat Loneliness 

Two fifths (41%) of the UK’s pensioners say they are reliant on their internet connection to stay in touch with loved ones as a fifth admit to feeling lonelier during the winter months, according to a survey conducted by Broadband Genie.

The research reveals how internet usage is increasing among older people as a means to prevent them from becoming isolated, as a third of over 65s polled say they spend more time on their own during this time of the year.

Almost half (46%) of people over the age of 75 spend six hours or more watching television every day and more than three in five (64%) pensioners say their TV and streaming usage increases over winter due to long nights and poor weather conditions.

But while most use their TVs as a source of entertainment, a third of pensioners admit that they put on a show for background noise so they don’t feel so alone.

The loneliest location for pensioners in the UK is Birmingham, where more than a quarter (26%) report feeling more isolated in the winter, with 32% saying that they spend more time alone during this season.

One-in-three over-65s (32%) find themselves engrossed in their laptops or computers for more than three hours each day.

Six in 10 older adults polled (61%) also said that they no longer use their landline phone. Those that are still relying on their landline will see a significant change in their service next year. The old landline system using copper wiring will be switched off by the end of 2025 and will now utilise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This means that every household will need to have a working broadband connection.

Meanwhile, well over two-thirds (69%) of older people are now active on social media platforms, as another avenue of communication and a source of entertainment, with 7% spending at least three hours a day on social media.

While reliance on internet connectivity becomes increasingly vital for the well-being of older people, over three-quarters (78%) of British pensioners are still unaware of social tariffs to help get them connected, despite many being eligible for the savings.

Broadband Genie has partnered with the charity AbilityNet to call on providers to make the internet accessible to all generations and ensure they can stay connected in this ever-evolving digital world.

Sarah Brain, Free Services Manager at AbilityNet comments: “In today’s digital era, a significant portion of life unfolds online. Research indicates that older people, compared to other age groups, are less likely to engage regularly with digital devices or the internet.

“Elderly people in Birmingham were revealed to feel the most isolated in winter. The city is an area of focus for AbilityNet and our Senior Skills Digital Training, in collaboration with BT.

“As a charity, we are committed to ensuring everyone can access technology. Our experience has revealed that older individuals facing digital exclusion—those who seldom or never go online—often grapple with a combination of low confidence, low skills, and a lack of motivation, and this is true for those with and without affordability issues.

“It is crucial to provide those who wish to learn with access to reliable, trusted sources of support and information. Our helpline and dedicated volunteers are ready to assist older individuals in enhancing their digital skills. By doing so, we aim to simplify day-to-day tasks, foster easier connectivity with friends and family, and keep them abreast of the latest news and entertainment.”

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, comments: “The need to keep older generations connected cannot be overstated as so many use the internet to keep in touch with loved ones.

“Loneliness among seniors is a pressing concern, with profound implications for mental and emotional well-being. For many, the internet serves as a bridge to social interactions, virtual communities, and diverse forms of entertainment. 

“By promoting accessibility through broadband social tariffs, providers empower the elderly to stay engaged, connected, and remain active participants in the digital age.

“The partnership between Broadband Genie and AbilityNet recognises that the internet has the potential to be a powerful antidote to social isolation. Ensuring older consumers have the confidence and skills to go online is crucial.

“Another barrier to connectivity is the cost, which is why Broadband Genie is calling on broadband providers to actively sign up more eligible pensioners to affordable social tariffs. We would like to see providers continue to teach digital skills to their customers, especially as traditional landline technology is switched off next year.”

Brenda Kimble

Brenda Kimble is an entrepreneur and mother of 2 daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family.