Digital communications may once have been the domain of the young, but Canada’s senior citizens are increasingly crossing the digital divide, according to new research from Revera, a Canadian seniors’ accommodation, care and services.
The Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniorsreveals that a growing army of online seniors, aged 75 and older, are using digital technology for everything from independent living to online shopping and more face time with friends and family using platforms like Skype. Further, three-quarters surveyed say they believe technology has the potential to make their lives easier.
According to Statistics Canada, only 5% of seniors 75 and older were online in 2000. Today, that number has grown more than fivefold to 27%, while recent data from Pew Research Center, a U.S.-based think-tank, showed 34% of American seniors 75-plus are now online.
“The computer is invaluable to me. I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Bertha Kronenberg, 88, who stays in touch with family living in South Africa from her computer at Revera’s Forest Hill Place Retirement Residence in Toronto. “The internet is a wonderful record of what is going on in the world.”
Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniors: Key Findings
- Canadian online seniors 75 and older are most inclined to use technology to keep socially active. In fact, email has surpassed face to face contact as a primary way to keep in contact with friends and family.
- Fifty-three per cent are socializing via social networking sites like Facebook, and one in five uses Skype or Facetime to speak with friends and family.
- Eighty-eight per cent go online at least once a day.
- Seven in 10 believe technology plays an important role in helping them live in their homes for as long as possible.
U of T Research Partnership Supports New Innovations in Technology For Seniors
In response to this growth, Revera is teaming up with the University of Toronto’s Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) in a three-year, $50,000/year research partnership. Along with research and development at the University, the partnership will see TAGlab researchers visiting Revera residences to conduct focus groups and test new technologies.
“Our shared goal is to create new advances in technology that will have a positive impact on the lives of Canadian seniors,” says Trish Barbato, Senior Vice President of Home Health and Business Development at Revera Inc. “There is such vast potential for technology to play a pivotal role in helping seniors stay socially active and independent – both benefits of the digital age that seniors say are key.”
Dr. Ronald Baecker, Founder and Lead Researcher at the TAGlab says while not all seniors are currently embracing technology, the emerging trends illustrate the growing place for digital in helping seniors live their lives, the way they choose.
“We know for instance that Canadians want to age at home,” says Dr. Baecker. “One of the ways we can help them do this is by creating new innovations that will address some of the big challenges they face like isolation and home health care monitoring. Our partnership with Revera will help us in our mission to advance technology for health, well-being and graceful aging.”
TAGlab is currently working on numerous devices to help social interaction including a touch screen photo frame that sends messages to a loved one’s email saying “I’m thinking of you.” This message prompts the relative to record a video that is transmitted back to the photo frame for viewing by the senior. New kinds of electronic books that enhance the experience of reading is another area of focus for TAGlab.