According to data recently unveiled by Statistics Canada, older Canadians represent the fastest growing demographic of internet users. The survey which was carried on Canadians both at home and work aged between 65 and 74 noticed a 16 point bump in the number who used the internet between the year 2013 and 2016. This increase was closely followed by that of senior citizens aged 75 and above whose internet growth usage was elevated by 15 percent over the course of the three year period. In gathering the data, Stat Canada asked the participants whether they had accessed the internet “at least a couple of times in the month before the survey”.
So, what is this increase credited to? According to Avery Swartz, a technology expert based in Toronto, the bump is caused by easy-to-use technological gadgets being channeled to the marketplace by tech companies. Compared to the previous years, the devices are significantly easier to manipulate by senior citizens and the technology incorporated into these devices is much more friendly and intuitive.
Of course, the younger population of Canadians – ages 15 to 44 – still comprise the largest demographic of internet users by maintaining a whopping 90 percent plus composition. This demographic is also growing but at a much smaller pace since most young people embrace technology at a much earlier age with few exceptions that adopt it later in life.
Another reason cited for the growth in the population aged 65 and older is the fact that approximately 76 percent of Canadians own smartphones. This has led to an increase in tech-consciousness among the older folks that has contributed to the rise in these numbers.
While more Canadians in the senior citizens bracket are represented when it comes to the online phenomena Stats Canada noted there was still a significant age gap when it came to senior citizens and the use of mobile devices. According to their survey, 94 percent of Canadians aged between 15 and 94 years owned at least one mobile device.
When broken down, those aged 75 and above only represented 18 percent of the total users with mobile devices. This large difference in mobile/smartphone ownership, according to Swartz is caused by the budget-consciousness of older citizens who tend to be turned off by the price of smartphones in general and the associated charges they will be required to foot on a regular basis. It also boils down to the ease of use. Although more smartphones are being shaped for use by the older generation, they are still a long way off from competing with other options such as the tablets and laptops in terms of functionality and usability. According to Swartz, the older population mostly require a basic device to view pictures of their family, access social media and view emails. All these tasks can be done much easily via an entry level laptop or tablet instead of a smartphone.
StatsCan also inquired on the effects of technology on the lives of the users. 59 percent of Canadians aged between 15 and above reported positive effects. However this was a drop from 61 percent in the previous year between people aged 15 and 64 years. Only 38 percent of Canadians above 75 years reported an increase in quality of life from the use of technology.
Overall, 14 percent of Canadians cited technology as a hindrance in their daily lives.
Another contributing factor to this growing demographic of internet users is the recent declaration by the Canadian government terming high speed internet an essential for quality of life. Barely one year since this was declared; the government, through an investment package of $750M, has began building better data infrastructure as well as increasing the awareness among its citizens on the importance of switching to a broadband connection. At the time the declaration was made it was estimated that at least 18 percent of the population did not have access to internet at all or used dial up to connect to the World Wide Web.
Since then, many broadband companies such as Acanac have diversified their data programs and prices to appeal to much wider demographics that are just learning about the benefits of high speed data connections. This, in turn, has contributed to the increase in the usage of internet among older Canadians. With time, this factor will cause a much more significant increase than has currently been observed.