The pandemic, with its travel restrictions and shutdowns, has caused many seniors to turn to technology to stay connected with family and friends, and they are the group most likely to have joined social media platforms and learned to use video calling applications like Zoom and Facetime.
A new BC Hydro report titled “Digital divide: COVID-19 pushes B.C. seniors to close technology gap, but challenges persist” paints a picture of seniors who have become tech savvy and are spending more time online every day.
When COVID-19 restrictions meant seniors were unable to see people in person, many adopted new technology quickly. About 60 per cent of seniors had to learn how to use video calling applications: far more than any other age group.
The reason seniors gave for learning to use apps such as Zoom and Facetime also differed from other adults. Seniors said their primary reason for learning to use these applications was to stay in touch with family and friends. In contrast, those aged 35–54 said their primary reason was work (44 per cent), while those 18–34 said work (33 per cent), closely followed by school (25 per cent).
About three-quarters of B.C.’s seniors now use social media, and they are the most likely age group to have joined one or more platforms since the pandemic began.
Social media is probably a big contributor to the one to five hours a day that many seniors spend online, and 60 per cent said they use social media primarily to keep in touch with loved ones.
However, seniors have been slower to adopt other technology. The report finds that they are 25 per cent less likely than other adults to go online to purchase essential items from the grocery store or pharmacy, despite the widespread uptake in online shopping.
Data from BC Hydro shows the adoption rate of MyHydro — an online account tool — being the lowest among customers aged 55 or older.
Lack of confidence using new online tools and needing one-on-one support may be preventing seniors from adopting more new technology. The report finds that 60 per cent of seniors said they typically need help when it comes to setting up a new device or using a new online application for the first time.
This is three times more than the 18–34-year-old age group and about twice as likely as the 35–54-year-old age group.