Two out of three older Canberrans lack the confidence to use video messaging apps like Zoom, according to a study led by University of Canberra associate professor Caroline Fisher.
Dr Fisher recommended improving digital literacy among seniors to reduce feelings of social isolation, particularly given people in their 80s and 90s had the lowest confidence and were more likely to be self-isolating during the pandemic.
"It speaks to the issue of digital media literacy and making sure people aren't left behind, particularly at the moment when we're all online and people are reliant on these apps to stay connected with family," she said.
The survey collected responses from more than 500 members of the seniors' organisation Council on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT) to explore the relationship between news consumption, digital participation and well-being.
Two-thirds felt more connected to the community when they accessed news and traditional sources were the most popular - 95 cent used television, 82 per cent used radio, 81 per cent used print and 58 per cent used online websites.
COTA ACT chief executive Jenny Mobbs said the report confirmed things she had known for some time.
"With recent closures of local and regional newspapers, it is the seniors who will miss out," she said.
Most people were confident using emails and more than two-thirds said they were somewhat confident doing online banking and searching for general information.
Dr Fisher said the biggest limitation preventing older people embracing digital tools wasn't technical skills, it was privacy concerns.
"Generationally, it makes sense. Younger people were brought up online and are familiar and confident using online platforms," she said.
Australian Council for Adult Literacy president Jo Medlin said digital literacy skills were essential for older Australians to find credible news and up-to-date public health advice during the pandemic.
"Digital literacy isn't just about logging on and using a platform, digital literacy is about the ability to interact with the information, to apply critical literacy skills and check the validity of what's been published," she said.
Without the ability to consume a range of information and compare different sources, Mrs Medlin said older people may not get a big picture, and relying solely on print media and television would mean seniors miss out on a depth of information provided online.
Mrs Medlin said there was a lack of equity in the ability to access the internet, although this was less of a problem in Canberra than in other parts of the country.
"Usually the government is focused on work outcomes, and I don't think they focus on the older generation," she said.
"Health literacy is crucial at the moment and if you think about how many resources you need to access to feel healthy and safe, to critically appraise [information] and also just understand it, it's a massive issue."
Many in-person support services and community education providers have been forced to move online and Mrs Medlin said that made it harder for older people to seek help.
"Especially for older people who are now blocked off from usual support," she said.
"Usually someone with digital literacy problems is able to function by accessing support face to face.
"People who don't have digital devices and confident digital skills are left alone to negotiate all this information."
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