A charity has warned that older drinkers who do not have smartphones to order food and drinks at pubs and restaurants are at risk of being discriminated against.
Lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease across the UK, with some pubs and restaurants introducing new measures to minimise contact with staff and reduce the spread of Covid, such as asking customers to order food and drink through online apps on their phone.
However, charity Age UK has said that these measures rule out half of those aged 65 to 74 and 70 per cent of the over-75s because they do not use smartphones.
In a report published last month, the charity found that while just under a quarter of over-75s in England have increased their internet usage since the pandemic began last March, most older online users say that their use has remained unchanged, with nearly one in 10 using the internet less.
David Walters, 78, told the Telegraph that the requirement to use an app in hospitality settings is “ageist”, after he was denied service at The Angel of Corbridge pub in Northumberland.
Mr Walters claimed he was told by staff that customers had to use an app to both order and submit contact details to NHS Test and Trace.
He told the Telegraph : “I just thought it was terrible. Older people like me don’t have this computer knowledge because we weren’t brought up with computers.”
However, the owner of the pub, Kevin Laing, said that the app was a temporary measure until indoor hospitality is set to return in England on 17 May, and that both he and his staff were “just doing the best we could at the time, and following the advice and guidelines to try and keep guests and staff safe”.
In regards to the NHS Test and Trace system, according to official government guidance venues should make sure there is a way for people to provide their contact details “if they do not own a smartphone or have access to digital routes”.
The guidance says: “You must make sure that there is a method of checking in that does not rely on the customer using a smartphone or other technology in order not to digitally exclude people without access to these technologies.”
‘Reducing the opportunities for some older people to enjoy socialising once again’
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the requirement for people to use smartphone apps in pubs and restaurants “risks widening the digital divide and reducing the opportunities for some older people to enjoy socialising once again”.
Ms Abrahams added: “We fully understand the need for venues to pay attention to infection control but it would be helpful to their bottom lines, as well as to older people, if they ensure that smartphone use is not a precondition for buying a drink or a meal.”