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Malta’s silver surfers among Europe’s ‘most social’

Europe: One out of every 8 persons in the EU could be 80 or above by 2080, elderly people less at risk of poverty or social exclusion

Matthew Vella
29 September 2015, 11:44am
The elderly in Malta are among the most active on social media across the European Union.

In 2014 in the EU, around a quarter (23%) of internet users aged between 65 and 74 participated in social networks. The differences between the member states are however significant: the highest share was recorded in Hungary, where more than half of elderly internet users participated in social networks (51%), followed by Portugal (44%), Malta and Sweden (both 43%) and Latvia (41%).

At the opposite end of the scale, fewer than one out of five internet users aged 65 to 74 participated in social networks.

Silver surfers are in the northern EU states

In 2014, less than half (42%) of the EU population aged 65-74 used the internet.

But more than two-thirds of these persons used the internet in Denmark (84%), Luxembourg (81%), Sweden (78%), the Netherlands (76%), the United Kingdom (70%) and Finland (68%), while this was the case for less than 20% of older persons in Romania and Bulgaria (10% each), Greece (14%), Cyprus (16%) and Croatia (17%).

Internet users aged 65 to 74 in the EU mainly used the internet for e-mailing (86%), finding information about goods and services (79%) and, to a lesser extent, reading news (60%) and making purchases (42%).

However, reading online news was by far the main activity among elderly internet users in the three EU Baltic States – Lithuania (93%), Latvia (84%) and Estonia (83%) – as well as in Greece (87%), Poland (74%), Croatia (73%) and Bulgaria (67%).

Europe getting older

The proportion of persons aged 65 or over will increase in the future to almost 30% by 2080.

In 2014, over-65s reached 18.5% of the population. In particular, the proportion of persons aged 80 or over among the total population is expected to more than double, from just over 5% in 2014 to more than 12% by 2080, a demographic trend that presents the EU with major challenges.

Italy has the highest proportion of people aged 80 or over (6.4%), while the lowest proportions were found in Ireland and Slovakia (both with 3.0% of their population aged 80 or over) as well as in Cyprus (3.1%).

The proportion of the EU population aged 80 or over has risen over the last 15 years, from 3.5% in 2001 to 5.1% in 2014.

Population projections show that the EU population will age further: by 2080, almost 1 out of every 8 persons (12.3% of the population) would be aged 80 or over. Slovakia, now the EU member state with the lowest proportion, is projected to become the member state with the highest share of persons aged 80 or over (16.3%), followed by Portugal (15.8%), Germany (15.1%) and Poland (14.9%).

At the opposite end of the scale, Ireland (with 7.4% of the population expected to be aged 80 or over by 2080), Lithuania (8.9%) and Latvia (9.5%) would have the lowest shares.

At risk of poverty or social exclusion

In the EU, 18.2% of persons aged 65 or over were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2013. On average, this risk was lower than for the population below 65 (of which 25.9% were at risk of poverty or social exclusion).

This pattern can be observed in 20 member states, especially in Ireland, where the risk of being at risk of poverty or social exclusion concerned 13.3% of the population aged 65 or over versus 31.8% of the population aged below 65, or a difference of 18.5 percentage points; Hungary (with a 17.3 pp gap), Greece (with a 15.8 pp gap) and Spain (with a 15.5 gap).

However, in eight member states persons aged 65 or above were more likely to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion than persons below 65, in particular in Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia and Croatia.

Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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