A couple weeks ago I wrote a post for this digital literacy series that examined the ways that social media is changing our lifestyles. In that post I looked at the six general digital lifestyles digital media users could be leading. The characteristics of these lifestyles vary greatly and can be applied to people from a number of demographics – but it’s safe to say they don’t include those over the age of 65.
So what happens after you reach the age of 65? Are most seniors sitting at home crocheting by candlelight? According to a recent report, the answer is no.
Canadian seniors are increasingly becoming digitally literate
Now I’m not about to drop a giant bombshell – Canadians under 65 are still far more digitally savvy than Canadian seniors. But, according to Statistics Canada, the number of seniors in Canada online has grown exponentially in the last 12 years:
In 2000, only five per cent of seniors 75 and older were online. Today, that number has grown more than fivefold to 27 per cent.
Canadian seniors use digital technology to be socially active and live independently
Revera is one of Canada’s leading providers of seniors’ accommodations, care and services. In partnership with Leger Marketing, Revera surveyed online Canadians aged 55-64, 65-74 and seniors 75+ to find out their attitudes and behaviours around technology use. Here are some the most interesting findings from the Report:
- 88% of online seniors, over the age of 75, are going online at least once a day, to send emails (98%), research topics of personal interest (76%), do Internet banking and investing (65%) and go shopping (33%).
- Email has surpassed face-to-face contact as a primary way for seniors to keep in touch with friends and family.
- More than half of online seniors (53%) 75 and older belong to social networking sites such and Facebook, and over a third (33%) visit those sites every day.
- The report indicates that seven in 10 seniors view technology as a tool to help them live independently longer. Two of the main ways they believe technology helps with this are: it keeps them socially active (63%) and it keeps them informed of news and world issues (60%).
It’s also noteworthy that seniors cited digital technology as a tool for health management and monitoring (45%). In researching this story, I came across a New York Times article discussing a study that found another form of digital technology, exergaming, offers health benefits for seniors. While game systems like the Nintendo Wii Fit don’t offer many physical benefits for young people (they don’t truly replicate the energy demands of the exercises they imitate), they offer seniors a low impact way to improve their balance. Improved balance can make falls less likely – a huge benefit when you consider that falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths for seniors.
How one Canadian senior uses her iPad
In October 2011, my grandma, who is 84, bought an iPad and I’ve been staying in touch with her primarily by email ever since. In light of the above findings, I thought it appropriate to ask her a few questions about her iPad use – again, via email. Here’s what she had to say:
Why did you get an iPad?
I wanted to get into the “real world”!
What was it like to start using the iPad?
I found it frustrating at first. And mind-boggling to discover I could use it in so many ways.
How do you use your iPad?
I use my iPad to keep in touch with family and friends; catch up on world news if I miss the TV broadcast; watch movies; listen to music; read books; look up info on places I’d like to go but I won’t be going!
I use it every day. I don’t use it to its full potential. It is easier to keep in touch with family and friends but lacks the personal touch of a phone call.
Do your friends also make use of digital technology in their everyday lives?
Quite a number of my friends use digital technology and probably just as many do not.
You’ve lived through a number of technological advances. From your point of view, how has today’s digital technology changed the world in general?
I like the fact that we have the world at our fingertips.
For more examples of how Canadian seniors are using digital media, check out these stories on Revera’s site.
More about the Revera survey
The survey was completed online from January 23, 2012 to February 3, 2012. with a sample of 1532 Canadians in the following age groups: 500 Canadians age 55 to 64, 513 Canadians ages 65 to 74; and 519 Canadians age 75+.