Seniors Embracing Digital World

Despite common perceptions that older adults have little know-how or interest in modern technologies like smartphones, tablets or the internet, a recent study shows that many are becoming connected online.

Furthermore, research has shown the gap in technology use may have little to do with age and more to do with accessibility.

Tech use among seniors

A recent study by the Pew Research Center in the United States has documented an increase of technology use among seniors.

Among some of the study’s findings are that four out of every 10 seniors own a smartphone. That number has doubled since 2013. About 67 per cent of seniors have indicated they use the internet and half of those use broadband connections. As well, one-in-four older adults said they play online video games.

Tablet ownership has grown faster than e-readers, with 32 per cent of respondents saying they own a tablet and just 19 per cent indicating they own an e-reader. Social media usage has also been rising and 34 per cent of those over 65 years of age say they use the networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. In 2013 that number was 27 per cent.

Overall, the largest adoption of technology tools occurs in the higher educated and higher income bracket of those aged 65 and up.

There are some drawbacks that older adults may face when it comes to adopting to technology. The Pew research found that 28 per cent have health problems or disabilities that may inhibit them from using digital devices.

However, other research has shown that adoption rates may be less about age and more about other factors such as education, economics or employment, according to a report from the University of Alberta. Instead, those older adults who are more adept with technology are often employed in positions that require them to use it on a daily basis.

 

Apps

There are several apps on the market that have been geared towards seniors. There are apps that help them connect with family, friends and others that can help battle the social isolation that some seniors feel. Other apps help them stay mentally strong with cognitive challenges or games.

Health apps track eating habits, exercise and even pill reminders or medication trackers. Several apps can also be used to find coupons or seniors discounts at local restaurant and shops.

Even Uber has recently made their car riding service more senior friendly by allowing others to book rides for those without an account or smartphone. Its competitor Lyft has also been trying out a new service to make transportation easier for older people.

 
Intergenerational connections

Technology has also become a method of connecting between older and younger Canadians.

There are several community programs that pair a senior up with a younger tech-savvy student, such as the Vancouver Library’s Teens and Seniors Technology Experience or the Connecting Generations Through Technology program in Ontario.  

Over and above the technology skills the older participants acquire, the younger individuals in the program have also reported benefits such as connecting with others.

 

Conclusion

Technology is not just for the up and coming generation but has its uses for all age groups. It has become a way of connecting with others, helping with daily tasks and simply making life easier.

With big tech names like Uber and Lyft working to implement programs that make their services more accessible for seniors it is a sign that older users are an important part of the digital world.

-Written by Chandra Lye

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