Millions of older people in the UK are being excluded from doing “ordinary things” like book a medical appointment or pay for parking because of the “rush” to move services online, a charity has warned.

A study by Age UK found almost half (46%) of people aged 65 or over were unable to navigate the internet “safely” and complete the most fundamental online tasks.

The study found 23% could not turn on a device and enter login information as required, while 28% were unable to find and open different applications.

Similar numbers were also unable to keep their login details secure, update or change their password, adjust device settings to make usage easier, use a mouse or keyboard, or find and open a website.

Some 35% were not able to set up a Wi-Fi connection on their device, while an estimated 2.7 million older adults in the UK simply don’t use the internet at all.

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‘Wake-up call’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the figures “should be a wake-up call for policymakers because they show the alarming extent to which the rush towards ‘digital by default’ is excluding our older population”.

She added: “The fact that so many millions of older people are unable to participate safely and successfully online is an inconvenient truth for governments and other organisations keen to slash costs by moving everything online, but it’s one we must confront and act on as a society.

“If we don’t, we are essentially saying it’s okay for legions of older people not to be able to do ordinary things like book a medical appointment, organise a blue badge for their car, or pay to park it, and surely that is totally unacceptable.”

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Age UK, a charity aimed at supporting older people, has called on public services to offer an easy-to-use, offline way of accessing key services.

It has also urged the government to publish an updated strategy to support people of all ages in getting online.

Ms Abrahams said: “This is not being Luddite, far from it… but rather a recognition that online methods simply are not working for millions of older people now and never will.

“They should be able to choose to access public services in more traditional ways – by phone, letter and face to face, as appropriate.”