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Although most people are familiar with arranging banking, online shopping, ordering groceries or consuming online news, this does not apply to everyone. For a significant part of Dutch society, this is the first time that they do this in this way and that is why it is now of extra great importance to take this into account.

Many elderly people are now forced to arrange groceries and other things online

about one-fifth of the Dutch population falls in the category 65 years or older. It is known that the elderly belong to the risk group of the coronavirus and must be extra careful in these times. This group must therefore go out as little as possible to avoid contact with others as much as possible. This ensures that they are forced to arrange the groceries and other things online, for example.

about 95% of the 65 to 75-year-olds have access to internet access. Approximately 80% of this age group actually makes active use of the internet for, for example, issues such as sending and receiving e-mails and looking up information about goods and services. This also means that about 20% of this group did not actively use the internet, but is now more mandatory for this. That is why it is now of even greater importance to make the internet more accessible.

In the age group 75 years or older, slightly less than 80% have access to the internet. A little more than half of this age group uses the internet for sending and receiving e-mails. No less than 50% of the over-75s use the internet to look up information about goods and services. Added to each other, this comes out on a considerable group of elderly people who are now forced to make (for the first time) active use of the internet, but is the digital world accessible enough for this group of elderly people? 

What happens when we get older?

Although the old age process differs per individual, everyone will have to deal with this sooner or later. Think of the reduction in vision, and hearing but also memory. During the design and development of a website, it is important to understand the consequences of the old age process and to take this into account.


From about 40 years the eyesight begins to deteriorate. The lens in the eye suffers from “presbyopia”, an eye disorder in which reading smaller letters is more difficult and the view of objects that are close by. Unfortunately, we all have to deal with this. This eye deviation also ensures that reading texts on internet pages is more difficult and in particular on internet pages where digital accessibility has not been taken into account. Research has shown that unfortunately Many websites are poorly accessible for blind and visually impaired .

The view of color also decreases as we get older. This is because compared to young people, the elderly only absorb a third of the light. In addition, websites often use too low a color contrast, which makes it difficult to make a distinction between text, background and shapes on an internet page.


Hearing also decreases as a result of old age. When this happens differs per person, but for some people the hearing starts to decrease from the age of thirty. Hearing impairment makes it harder to detect low frequencies. A disadvantage for many elderly people is that they cannot sign language. After all, most were not always deaf or hard of hearing. This should therefore be paid to a digitally accessible world.


Memory consists of different parts, which unfortunately also have to deal with a decrease in old age. Fortunately, this does not apply to all parts of the memory. This way the procedural memory usually continues to work well. This part of the brain remembers how to do certain actions.

Unfortunately, short-term memory can decrease. As a result, for example, learning new skills is more difficult. Certainly when there is a certain degree of complexity, as in the (unknown) digital world. The prospective memory (remembering to perform certain tasks in the future) can also decrease as we get older.

Taking into account the digital accessibility for the elderly

To increase digital accessibility for the elderly, it is important to take a number of things into account during the design and development of a website. Consider the navigation of website and the visibility of the text, but also things like error messages should not be forgotten. In this way, the elderly can have difficulty with the context of an error message or reading the text, so that they do not understand what they are doing wrong and how to solve it. Error messages must be easy to understand and it must be clearly formulated what goes wrong and how this can be remedied. Consider, for example, filling in an online form, which is not always easy.

With regard to navigation, it is sometimes forgotten that online navigating for the elderly and people with disabilities can be quite a task. Therefore, take this into account by using simple and clearly visible navigation buttons and ensure that important information and tasks are clearly displayed on a page. When tasks are distributed over multiple pages, this can lead to the fact that elderly people with a reduced memory have difficulty completing a task in its entirety.

A digitally accessible world for everyone

The Coronavirus and the measures against distribution thereof ensure an increase in the need for a digitally accessible world. Websites and applications are starting to form the most important source for obtaining products and services. We are fast on the way to a digitally accessible world for everyone, but there are still points for improvement. Including the number of websites that have currently not done enough for digital accessibility.

In practice it appears that the switch to a digitally accessible websites is quite complex. That is why we are happy to help you on your way in this area. Feel free to contact with us or look in our online knowledge base

Vincent van Brakel

Vincent van Brakel researches the accessibility of websites and apps for Digitaal Toegankelijk. Vincent also writes about everything that has to do with digital accessibility and shares practical tips on