Technology Helps Canadian Seniors Stay Independent

More seniors are using the Internet than ever before. According to the Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniors, 27 percent of Canadians over the age of 75 are now online, a jump from the mere five percent who were using the web in 2000.

Seniors who have crossed the digital divide are putting the Internet to good use, with 88 percent going online at least once a day. For this tech-savvy group email has now surpassed face-to-face contact as their primary way of keeping in touch with friends and family.

Technology and Independence
Revera’s poll reveals that three-quarters of respondents over the age of 75 think technology has the potential to make their lives easier, and 56 percent would like to use it more in their daily lives.

Not only does technology provide fun and convenient tools, but it may even improve health and independence. “We know, for instance, that Canadians want to age at home,” said Ron Baecker, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto. “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.”

According to the poll, seniors are hopeful about these technological advances, with 70 percent saying they think technology will allow them to stay in their own homes longer. As for how they think they would use technology to live independently, 49 percent said it would make their homes more secure and 34 percent felt it would make their homes safer. Almost half of respondents (45%) said they would use it to monitor their healthcare.

How Seniors Are Using the Internet
The internet is a valuable tool for seniors for staying connected, acquiring new information, accessing financial services and shopping. Of those seniors who use the internet daily, 98 percent said they use email, 76 percent research personal interests, 65 percent do online banking and/or investing, and 33 percent shop online.

Social networking has become an ideal way to keep connected and up-to-date on the lives of loved ones. More than half (53%) of online seniors say they use sites like Facebook, and 36 percent visit at least once a day. The internet is also helping cut down on phone bills, with 19 percent of online seniors now using Skype or Apple’s Facetime to video chat with loved ones.

Closing the Digital Divide
For seniors who want to improve their technical know-how, Revera offers some basic guidelines. Balance by dividing time between online and other activities, Ask help from others as needed, Show by having a family member demonstrate new ways to use technology, Integrate by finding online tools that can address your specific needs, and Choose through investing in the right tools for you.

However you opt to implement technology in your own life, the number of available tools is growing daily. The University of Toronto’s Technologies for Aging Gracefully lab (TAGlab) has a research team developing technology that will improve the lives and increase the independence of seniors.

They’ve developed a touchscreen photo frame that can be used to send an email to a loved one and receive a video response right through the frame. They’re also working on an eBook reader that would address the specific needs of seniors.

And it seems the demand is there: one of their recent releases, an app called MyVoice, which helps seniors re-develop their vocabulary after suffering from a stroke, has been downloaded 12,000 times in the nine months since it first became available.

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