How can we build responsive housing services for everyone in our society? 

Michelle Tyler, Director Social Housing, Civica discusses why housing providers should engage more with the over 70s to improve service delivery.

Did you know that nine million people in the UK (15% of the population) are aged 70 and over? Did you also know that this age group is our largest growing demographic, with the ONS confirming this figure is expected to reach 22% by 2030? There’s no denying that we’re all living longer and healthier lives. However, as our population ages, and we learn to live with the daily challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s becoming more important than ever to use technology wisely.

Digital and online ways to communicate are open to all – we shouldn’t assume our over 70s are any exception. We’re all using online services increasingly to support us in our everyday lives, seeing the positive power of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, from empowering our remote workers, video calling to stay connected with our loved ones, or mobile technologies that are playing a vital role in keeping us safe. 

A tech-savvy age group ready to engage 

Typically, the older generation is often perceived as a group not wanting to or having the skills to engage online. That assumption wrongly leads to them being excluded in service design and new digital thinking, isolating them even further.  I believe technology can improve public services for everyone, and with the rise of new lockdown restrictions and a growing fear of a second wave, now is the time act. 

The good news is that the over 70s are ready and willing to engage. New research from Civica and techUK – A Word from the Wise – confirmed the over 70s do access online services such as booking GP appointments online. They are equipped and tech-savvy. As Judith, 75 from Bristol, told us, “The thing that surprised me was how knowledgeable we all are in using technology.” 

The study found that 73% own a laptop and 74% own a smartphone, with over 65% using it daily. When it comes to technology in the home, 51% own a smart TV, with 42% owning a smart speaker or other smart device such as heating or home security devices.  

Tapping into the benefits of technology 

What this insight shows is that by including the over 70s in our digital thinking, social housing providers can both improve the user experience and use the efficiencies and benefits technology delivers within this age group.

The over 70s agree. Overall, 79% of those we surveyed confirmed they see the direct benefits of technology in improving public services, both personally and in their community.  And when looking at specific technologies, the group confirmed the benefit of technologies such as fingerprint or facial technology for improved online safety (58%), smart devices to monitor their health (49%) , and tech for improved home security (52%) and to combat loneliness (48%).  These findings should give social housing leaders more confidence in using technology to support this age group and improve service offerings.    

When we asked leaders what technologies they felt could further support the over 70s, they ranked chatbots (72%), mobile apps (72%), smart wearables (71%), and voice-controlled assistants (67%) as the most relevant.  It seems we have an age group willing to engage and a leadership seeing certain technologies that can help. So what’s holding us back?   

Embracing a digital future for everyone 

The pressures and challenges such as budgets, legacy IT, and security challenges facing social housing are well-documented – with the COVID-19 landscape playing its part too. But one challenge we should dispel is the skills and knowledge of them using technology – which was the biggest challenge confirmed by our leaders (44%).   

The over 70s have raised their hand to say they want to be included. There is more we can and should do to improve our support for them. Now is the time for social housing leaders to take further positive steps and improve the overall experience, while also delivering more efficient services for this rapidly growing age group.   


A Word from the Wise

We believe that by working together, technology can improve public services for everyone. So we took the time to listen to the over 70s in our community. This is what they said...

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