THESSALONIKI – Who says the elderly cannot continue to learn new things? And who also says that new technologies belong only to the young? An increasing number of elderly people today are learning to use the Internet, not just to «surf,» but also to do their shopping and book trips abroad and summer holidays. A study conducted by the Greek Consumer Organization (EKATO) and presented recently at an international conference on the elderly in Thessaloniki, shows that every year, more and more elderly people are making use of the Internet. Shopping online The study was conducted around Greece and contained responses from 467 elderly people who answered written questionnaires and another 70 who answered via the Internet. Data showed that when elderly people shop, they prefer printed product catalogs over the Internet (41 percent as opposed to 25 percent). But, in a short period of time, the Internet appears to have won over many elderly people. Since 2002, the percentage of elderly people using the Internet for shopping has risen from 11 percent to 25 percent in 2004. «The traditional point of view that elderly people reduce their shopping expenses significantly, has been overturned by new research into their consumer habits,» noted EKATO President Tania Kyriakidi. According to the head of the organization, the percentage of consumers aged 55-70 who go on four or more shopping trips a week has risen from 22 percent in 2002 to 35 percent this year. However, electrical appliance and electronic equipment manufacturers pay little real attention to this great market potential, and their oversight is reflected in the answers given by elderly people when asked whether they are satisfied with the electronic equipment they use: 82 percent responded that the users’ manuals were too complex and not very user-friendly because in most cases the print is too small. Furthermore, it appears from the study that the world we live in today is often a hostile one to elderly people: 89 percent of people asked considered mobile phones, television remote control devices and other equipment to be made only for «super-consumers,» because the tags are illegible, sometimes even to young people. A lack of familiarity, complex manuals and a fear of making some sort of technical mistake lead nine out of 10 elderly people to use their television remote controls only for the on/off button, to regulate the volume and to change channels. Red lights The study also attempted to record some of the daily problems faced by elderly people in an attempt to find solutions for them. The consumer group thus created a virtual scenario of three elderly people with varying degrees of mobility problems attempting to cross the pedestrian crossings of several major intersections in Athens and Thessaloniki. Not one succeeded in getting across on the green pedestrian light in time before it changed to red. This is yet another study which shows that getting around is one of the biggest problems faced by elderly people in Greece. Indeed, the study’s research into public transportation recorded that over a period of five months there were 10-14 accidents (falls, twisted ankles, broken limbs, etc.) a month involving elderly people who were having difficulty getting on and off buses. Most probably, this is the reason why 70 percent of the study’s respondents said they have limited their outdoor activities.