Older Canadians represent the fastest-growing segments of internet users nationwide, according to new data from Statistics Canada.
The survey titled Canadians at Work and Home found online activity among those aged 65 to 74 climbed 16 percentage points between 2013 and 2016. Participants were asked if they used the internet “at least a few times during the month preceding the survey.”
That growth was closely followed among people aged 75 and older, whose internet use jumped 15 percentage points over the same three-year period.
Toronto-based technology expert Avery Swartz said rising adoption among seniors is likely spurred by more intuitive, easy-to-use technology hitting the marketplace in recent years.
“It’s just plain easier for seniors to get online now,” she told CTVNews.ca. “The technology and the actual devices are much easier to use now than there were just a few years ago.”
Younger people still form the bulk of Canadians active online, according to the survey, leaving less room for growth. Statistics Canada said usage among the 15-to-44 demographic is generally well over 90 per cent.
Albertans were the most prolific internet users, with 94 per cent saying they were active online in 2016. Newfoundland and Labrador was the lowest at 88 per cent.
More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of Canadians own a smartphone, according to Statistics Canada.
While older Canadians are seeing more robust representation online, a significant age gap is still evident when it comes to mobile. The survey found an overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of 15-to-94 year olds own a connected device, compared 69 per cent among those 55 to 64, and just 18 per cent for those over 75.
Swartz said this may be a function of budget-conscious seniors bristling at the price of top-tier smartphones, and the monthly data charges they require. She suspects many older Canadians find a laptop or tablet is more than enough to meet their online needs.
“If you need one device to occasionally go on social media, look at pictures of your family and write emails, an entry-level laptop or even an entry-level table is going to be much cheaper than most smartphones on the market,” she said.
The survey examined how the increasingly ubiquitous internet impacts various facets of Canadian life, including work-life balance and job satisfaction. It also attempted to weigh the benefits of our more connected world against online irritants like cyberbullying and social media harassment.
StatsCan found the majority of Canadians believe their lives are better as a result of technology. Nearly three-in-five Canadians (59 per cent) aged 15 and older reported improvements. However, the perception of progress slid from an average of 61 per cent among those aged 15-to-64, to 38 per cent for Canadians aged 75 years and older.
Improved communication and time savings were among the most widely-touted benefits, reported by 77 per cent and 66 per cent of respondents respectively. Fifty-two per cent said technology allows them to make more informed decisions. Improved creativity was posited by 36 per cent.
Overall, 14 per cent of Canadians felt that technology often interfered with other areas of life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most prolific users were found to experience more negatively associated consequences. Among those reporting technological interference, 20 per cent were between 15 and 24 years old. That figure plunged to just three per cent for those 75 and older.
While greater integration of technology was broadly recognized as positively impacting everyday life, the trend did not help those surveyed juggle their careers and social lives more effectively.
The proportion of working Canadians who reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance slipped 10 percentage points over an eight-year time span, from 78 per cent in 2008 to 68 per cent in 2016.
Women were found to be somewhat less likely to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance compare to men, 66 per cent versus 70 per cent respectively.
By the numbers:
- 91 per cent of Canadians age 15 and older who participated in the survey said they went online “a few times a month” in 2016
- 68 per cent of those 65 and older reported using the internet “a few times a month” in 2016
- Canadians between 65 and 74 were the fastest growing demographic online between 2013 and 2016, jumping 16 percentage points
- 94 per cent of participants 15-to-34 years old reported owning a smartphone in 2016, compared to 18 per cent of people over 75
- 90 per cent of those surveyed said they owned two or more digital devices in 2016, 80 per cent said they owned three or more
- 71 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported owning a laptop
- 54 per cent reported owning a tablet or e-reader
- half said they owned a desktop computer in 2016
- 59 per cent of survey participants said their life has been made better by the use of technology
- 14 per cent of survey participants felt that technology often interfered with other things in life