Tapping into technology helps seniors stay sharp
Published Sunday, June 24, 2012 9:40PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 25, 2012 11:56AM EDT
Seniors are crossing the digital divide and tapping into technology now more than ever, according to a new survey.
The Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniors shows that of the 27 per cent of seniors aged 75 and older who are online -- which is up from five per cent in 2000 -- more than half use social media to connect with family and friends.
The report also showed that one-in-five seniors use Skype or Facetime to chat with loved ones.
“The computer is invaluable to me. I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Bertha Kronenberg, 88.
She stays in touch with family living in South Africa from her computer at Forest Hill Place Retirement Residence in Toronto.
“The Internet is a wonderful record of what’s going on in the world,” she told CTV News.
Adrienne Dawson, 91, uses her laptop at Ajax’s Winbourne Park long-term care home to explore the globe.
“The other day I took a tour of Italy. I went there when I was younger and loved it. So now I go back on my computer every so often to see how it’s changed,” she said. “It’s like taking a vacation.”
When her computer broke a couple of years ago she thought of not replacing it. But Dawson’s family wouldn’t hear of it and bought her a new one with Skype.
“I used to Skype my cousin every day, we were very close,” she said. “I was lucky to have my computer to see her.”
The Revera report, which surveyed more than 1,500 Canadians aged 55 and older, showed 88 per cent of seniors go online at least once a day and seven out of 10 seniors believe technology helps them stay in their own homes longer.
According to University of Toronto computer science professor Ron Baecker, technology is decreasing social isolation among Canada’s elderly population and keeping seniors mentally active.
He pointed to Skype and Facebook, which were developed for a younger audience and are now being adopted by seniors in increasing numbers.
“Anything that you do to keep mentally active, and that includes email, that includes conversation, that includes participating in social networks, increases your mental health and keeps you fit longer,” Baecker told CTV.
“Staying socially active is important to decrease isolation and there is a well-known fact that isolation as seniors get older causes other health problems.”
While about one-third of Canadian seniors are online, Baecker said that number could be much greater.
“Some technology is not easy enough to use. But even more so than the technology, what’s required is an ecosystem of support. And that can be family members, friends, grandchildren, training courses.”
Baecker founded the University of Toronto’s Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab), which develops tech tools designed especially with seniors in mind.
He said MyVoice, a mobile app that helps seniors recovering from strokes re-develop their vocabulary, has seen 12,000 downloads since it was released nine months ago.
TAGlab is also working on an e-book reader designed with seniors in mind.
“Our hope is seniors will be able to use technology to have a meaningful life and stay cognitively and socially active longer,” said Baecker.
A new three-year, $50,000 research partnership between Revera and TAGlab will respond to the growing demand for technologies for seniors.
“Our shared goal is to create new advances in technology that will have a positive impact on the lives of Canadian seniors,” said Trish Barbato of 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.”
Kronenberg said she’s happy to learn about new technologies that come her way.
“(You’re) never too old to learn anything.”
With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip