More seniors are online, but tech adoption remains slow for some

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TORONTO – Despite more senior citizens saying they use the Internet on a regular basis, most are still lagging behind the rest of the adult population when it comes to tech adoption, according to a new study.

The new study from U.S.-based Pew Research Center reveals 59 per cent of American seniors say they go online regularly – a six per cent increase since Pew last studied senior’s Internet adoption rates in 2012.

Seventy-one per cent of those users go online almost every day.

READ MORE: ‘Instagram-pa’ encourages the elderly to share their history through Instagram

Canadian seniors are also breaking the tech-shy stereotype.

Take for example Kit Rowley, a 63-year-old from Calgary, Alta. who has gone through four iPads, three iPhones and is active on social media.

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Rowley uses Facebook and LinkedIn regularly, uses Skype to keep in touch with her grandchild in Japan and streams TV shows from Netflix and other sites to her TV. The only thing that has stumped her is setting up Wi-Fi, she said.

Susan Gerle of Vernon, B.C. is has been active online for the past ten years, using everything from email services to online dating.

“Here I am – almost 65 – sitting in front of my laptop, drinking my coffee, texting on my android and talking to the whole universe,” Gerle told Global News via email.

“Who would have thought I’d ever be blogging, texting, downloading apps, Skyping, Twittering, Facebooking, and ‘Linking’ even 15 years ago.”

But the self-titled ‘almost’-retiree – “We are never retired with so much to do,” she said – believes that seniors are becoming more open to learning about technology, especially those who are still doing some form of work.

READ MORE: Most Canadian seniors now use a cell but few have a smartphone

“I find that many of my peers who have avoided developing computer skills until now are suddenly being dragged into it through work requirements.  Once they get a taste of what a computer can do for them, they are often hooked,” she said.”

Gerle has many friends in their 70s and 80s who are learning to use gadgets – including her 90-year-old uncle who goes online via his computer and her 86-year-old mother who uses her iPad for Facebook.

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“Discussions have switched from ‘What’s for dinner’ to ‘Do you think the iPhone or an Android is a better choice,'” she said.

“More seniors are embracing new technology and more will do so as long as it becomes more senior-friendly.”

Seniors face more challenges when using tech

While the study said cellphone adoption in seniors is on the rise (with 77 per cent of those aged 65 and up owning a cellphone), seniors still lag behind the rest of the adult population when it comes to tech adoption.

Forty-one per cent of seniors reported not using the Internet at all, and 53 per cent said they did not have broadband Internet access at home.

Pew Research also found that seniors feel they face more challenges when learning to use tech as compared to younger generations.

The study found that two in five seniors indicate that they have a physical or health condition that makes reading difficult, or a “disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in many common daily activities.”

This group is much less likely to go online, or own gadgets.

Older adults also want more assistance when it comes to learning how to use devices.

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Only 18 per cent of seniors said they would feel comfortable learning to use a smartphone or tablet on their own. Seventy-seven per cent of seniors said they would want someone to help teach them about the device.

Kit Rowley agrees, “[Seniors] simply don’t understand the ease of use and relative low cost of the iPhone or iPad on the Internet, or they don’t have a mentor or champion to help them.”

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