More Canadian seniors stay connected with Facebook and Skype: report

TORONTO – There may be a generation gap, but when it comes to technology, Canadian seniors are catching up to the young and tech-savvy, according to a new report. 

Revera, a senior’s care and services provider, teamed up with Leger Marketing for the study. 1532 online Canadians aged 55-64, 65-74 and 75 and older were surveyed. 

The key findings of the report show that 88 per cent of seniors 75 and older sent emails, researched topics of interest, did banking, invested and shopped online – at least once a day. In fact, emailing surpassed face-to-face contact as a primary way to keep in contact with their friends and family. 

According to Statistics Canada, only five per cent of Canadian seniors 75 and over were online in 2000. Today, that number has grown to 27 per cent. 

Adrienne Dawson, 91, a resident at Revera’s Winbourne Park Long Term Centre in Ajax, Ontario, says she’s been named the “computer whiz” of the residence. She says she couldn’t live without her laptop and loves surfing different websites. 

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“I’m using it right now for the U.S. Open golf,” says Dawson. “I’m in a pool, so I watch the golfers and the leaderboard is on there every day.”

Bertha Kronenberg, 88, is another self-taught cyber expert living at Revera’s Forest Hill Place in Toronto, who says Skype (a free, videoconferencing service) helps her stay in touch with her family in South Africa on a daily basis. 

“The benefit [of being online] is corresponding with family and friends all over the world,” says Kronenberg. “Also, if my family and friends go to a place or my family are holidaying here or there, I like to go with them through cyberspace, as it were.”

Trish Barbato, senior vice president of Home Health at Revera says even things that seem small, like emails, can have a huge impact on a seniors’ well being and health outcomes.

“There is a lot of research that shows when you have good social support, it helps you both mentally and physically,” says Barbato. “One of the things about seniors being isolated in their homes is that they don’t get all of that social interaction, so it’s easy to get depressed.”

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Barbato says the report has prompted a three-year research partnership with the University of Toronto’s Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) to bring new technologies to Canadian seniors. 

Barbato says they’re looking at providing wireless connections in their care homes and already trialed a dozen residences where seniors were taught basic computer skills to ‘oversold’ audiences.