Providing older people with training on using the internet could go a long way in reducing loneliness among over 65s, a think tank has suggested.
In a sign of the ever widening scope for virtual approaches to learning, Policy Exchange has called for every person in the UK to be given access to basic digital training on tasks such as using social networks and sending emails.
The group suggests that such an undertaking would cost approximately £875 million between now and 2020, with approximately 6.2 million people currently estimated to be living in the UK without basic digital skills.
One demographic where this could make a big difference is among pensioners, who would then be able to stay more easily connected with family and friends who may not live in their vicinity.
This is something that has been identified as a major challenge for older UK residents in the future, who are at increasing risk of becoming isolated from their families as work demands cause more movement across the country.
According to Policy Exchange approximately 40 per cent of people living in Britain and over the age of 65 currently have no internet access in their home, with as many as five million people never having used the internet - a group comprised mainly of people from this demographic.
Above the age of 85, the risk of isolation is even greater for those without digital communication skills, and with the number of people in this age group expected to double within 20 years, the think-tank believes that such a training programme would yield significant social and economic benefits.
"In an increasingly isolated and fast-moving world, it is vital that everyone in society is able to use the internet and understand its benefits," said report author Eddie Copeland. "From alleviating social isolation, bringing together communities, paying bills and now accessing public services, online can improve lives."
"Access a social networking site could provide older people with a way to stay connected to their friends and families, who may live hundreds of miles away. Maintaining these important relationships will help an aging society vulnerable to loneliness and disconnection from a fast-moving modern world."