We are all getting older, even if many of us are feeling younger than our chronological age. The ageing of the population is a recurrent theme cutting across topics and activities. But, in all of the discussion, there is a core theme about healthy ageing; how can we have an older, healthier population, and how would we know?
In order to have effective policy in this area, there is a need to understand the conditions faced by older people. Scotland has had no longitudinal study on its ageing population. HAGIS (Healthy Ageing in Scotland) is an attempt to fill this gap, and has developed and reported on a pilot survey for such a longitudinal study. The protocol for this can be downloaded here. The intention is to build a longitudinal study comparative with those in other countries.
HAGIS used an innovative sample frame (linked to administrative data) to produce a random sample across Scottish households (at least one person in the household aged 50+). There were 1057 interviews supplemented by a self-completion questionnaire provided by 67% of respondents.
The results from the pilot survey were launched in early December 2017. The report, produced by the Stirling Management School, University of Stirling, contains 17 chapters encompassing the project itself and reviews sectors and aspects as revealed by the data. It will be available via the HAGIS website soon.
Our chapter in this (available here) is on online shopping and service use and is authored by Maria Rybaczewska, myself and Steve Burt. We were asked to look at the relationships between age, internet use and online shopping.
What did we find?
The overall HAGIS report authors selected four key items from our analysis of the data on internet use:
- 76% of Scotland’s older population use the internet. Internet usage by older people in Scotland is higher than the average across OECD countries.
- The most common internet activities for older people are using email (67%), finding information about goods and services (66%) and online shopping (54%).
- Internet usage is less frequent as age increases. 56% of people aged 80 or over report that they never use the internet.
- Amongst internet users there is no age difference in the proportion using email. Older internet users are less likely to use the internet to find information or shop online.
Our conclusions in our chapter were that:
Whilst the majority of academic publications defined old as 55 years and older or 65 years and older, the HAGIS data suggests that the boundary in terms of using the Internet for selling/shopping goods and services and for finding information about goods and services is rather older, at 70 or 75 and above. This corresponds to the idea of healthy ageing, active old age and current society behaving in a different way now than it did a decade ago. Increasingly people at 60-65 and over are far more active than their age equivalents previously and this ‘active’ life for some encompasses modern technology for goods, services and information as much as it might do physical activity. The use of the internet and other technological services is extended well into what is perceived of as older age. We found that there is limited evidence that use is greater in Scotland than in England. Primary uses were emails, sending for goods and services and shopping on the internet.
Ageing is often seen in a negative light with adverse consequences. Understanding what older people already do, how this is changing and the possibilities there are, is vital, and not only in the retailing and online sphere. Scotland now has the opportunity to develop HAGIS and this longitudinal work (using linked data sets) to provide innovative and valuable policy choices and outcomes. We were very pleased to be involved in looking at the retail data – and not just for personal reasons!
HAGIS was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Nuffield Foundation and managed and delivered by the University of Stirling and the University of Edinburgh. FACTS International carried out the research.
Douglas E., Rutherford A. and D. Bell (2018) Pilot study protocol to inform a future longitudinal study of ageing using linked administrative data. Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS), BMJ Open, 8 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018802)
Douglas E., Watson T. and D. Bell (2017) Healthy Ageing in Scotland: The pilot survey. Published by Stirling Management School, University of Stirling.