In a world where technology is omnipresent daily, digital literacy for seniors is a key factor to be considered. With the aim to ensure social inclusion, digital education for seniors appears as an effective solution allowing the elderly population to stay involved in society, to maintain an active life, and to avoid the harmful effects of social isolation.
In order to learn more about this important question, let’s explore together the five major benefits of digital literacy for seniors, the main challenges associated with this learning, as well as the significance of social and intergenerational inclusion of seniors in our current society.
5 benefits of better access to technology for seniors
Even if the world of digital technology is not necessarily an innate concept for most seniors, there is a growing interest on their part towards it. Indeed, there are many advantages, both on a personal level and for the society as a whole!
Let’s discover the 5 main benefits associated with digital literacy for seniors.
1. Preventing social isolation and loneliness
The ability to better connect with relatives using technology is undoubtedly one of the key benefits of digital literacy for seniors.
By becoming more comfortable with the use of technological devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, seniors can seize a unique opportunity to maintain a social connection with family and friends, despite the distance that may sometimes separate us.
- Keep in touch with relatives by e-mail ;
- Follow up on news and photos of your family members and grandchildren, for example, via social media such as Facebook or Instagram ;
- Video chat remotely using platforms such as Skype, Zoom or Teams.
By offering accessible means of communication, digital education for seniors represents a great opportunity to overcome solitude and prevent social isolation.
2. Maintaining and enhancing the autonomy of seniors
Enabling seniors to become more « connected » to new technologies is also a great way to facilitate greater autonomy in everyday life. With a better knowledge of computers and technology in general, seniors can continue to evolve in a more autonomous way, without having to always depend on a relative.
Digital literacy also allows seniors to enjoy full access to online sources of information, as well as being able to conveniently manage their own appointments online, for example.
Not only does technology for seniors mean greater independence, but it also helps boost their self-confidence!
3. Make everyday life easier
Technologies are now being used in more and more aspects of daily life. By becoming more familiar with the digital world, seniors have the chance to facilitate many facets of their daily lives:
- online shopping;
- online banking services;
- managing activities/projects/travel;
- use of e-mail as an alternative to paper communication;
- scheduling appointments online;
- and much more!
4. Providing great entertainment options
In addition to the functional aspects, the web and the various electronic devices represent an inexhaustible source of entertainment for seniors. From online games to streaming movies and series (Netflix, Disney +, etc.), from games consoles and/or access to online libraries, the options are simply endless!
5. Optimizing health and safety for seniors
While cyber security may sometimes be an issue, it is still important to highlight the positive impact that technology can have on the health and safety of seniors. Indeed, we can say that digital technology is making a growing contribution to the well-being and care of the elderly.
Here are just a few examples:
- Telemedicine, enabling you to see a doctor (or any other healthcare professional) via a remote consultation;
- Optimizing medication intake by using online applications to communicate with the pharmacy, or via a virtual pillbox, for example;
- Using monitors to check and measure health indicators such as cardiac frequency, sleep quality and much more;
- Or even the installation of emergency alert devices, including fall prevention or location devices, for example.
By mastering the basics of these technologies, seniors and their families can enjoy greater control over their own health situation!
Digital literacy for seniors: 5 challenges to overcome
While the benefits of digital inclusion for seniors certainly prevail, it would be wrong to pretend that it is always an easy concept to apply. In fact, some challenges can make it difficult for seniors to learn about emerging technologies.
Thankfully, solutions exist for each of these challenges!
1. Having access to Internet and Wi-Fi
Digital literacy inevitably involves the need for an Internet connection! It is, in fact, an essential requirement to ensure that seniors can stay connected and take advantage of all the related benefits.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, access to good Wi-Fi can sometimes be a challenge: high monthly costs, restricted accessibility in some regions, limited services in certain residences or apartments, insufficient information about how to use the Internet, etc.
In response to this issue, solutions have been developed to promote the digital inclusion of seniors. Here are a few examples : workshops for seniors to familiarize themselves with technology access, government grants, improved Internet access in regional areas, initiatives enabling greater connectivity in social housing, and much more.
2. New technologies : a learning challenge
With the world evolving so rapidly, it is perfectly normal for the elderly population to be somewhat unfamiliar with technology. Not having grown up in a society where digital technology occupied such a central role, seniors are now faced with a major adaptation challenge.
However, with the proper resources and tools, it is amazing to observe how quickly seniors can familiarize themselves with the new digital culture in society!
3. Finding easily accessible training or workshops
To avoid the digital divide threatening to separate the elderly from the younger population, we believe it is vital to offer workshops and training that are both relevant and accessible. And this should be available as locally as possible in each municipality. Although this point may remain a challenge, depending on the area, real efforts are being made to address the problem. The goal being to constantly improve accessibility to digital literacy for seniors all over Quebec and Canada.
A wonderful example, thanks to BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec), is the opportunity to take part in free training activities to help seniors learn about digital technology.
4. Online security: a real challenge not to be neglected
Cyber security is now a worldwide issue, affecting all age groups. Meaning that everyone needs to be aware of it and adopt safer practices when interacting on the web. Since technology is perhaps less intuitive for some seniors, they unfortunately often represent an easier target for cybercriminals.
To mark National Seniors Day, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada published an interesting article outlining 5 tips to help seniors stay safe online. Here is a summary of these five recommendations :
- Keep personal information shared to a strict minimum;
- Protect your computer and Internet network with reliable antivirus software and safe passwords;
- Remain vigilant about spam and undesired emails;
- Be careful about the content you publish on social networks;
- Carefully use online shopping.
5. Technologies adapted to the reality of each senior
The last challenge is to ensure that seniors have access to technologies that are adapted to their own reality. For example, if someone suffers from vision problems, a device with a larger screen may be more appropriate for this person. The whole idea is to make it easier for seniors to use all the digital tools available to them, to encourage them to learn and appreciate the benefits of technology in daily life.
Importance of seniors’ digital inclusion in society
To avoid digital ageism and all the inequalities associated with it, it is essential that efforts to promote digital literacy among the elderly population continue. With a better understanding of technologies, and their usefulness in everyday life, seniors are more likely to create social links with others and avoid loneliness. Such opportunities can help achieve what we might call intergenerational digital inclusion, opening the door to positive exchanges between generations and greater citizen participation by seniors in the community.
Some great initiatives to promote digital literacy for seniors
In line with all the considerations mentioned above, it is inspiring to see that some great initiatives have been put in place to promote digital literacy among seniors.
Whether for yourself, or an elderly relative living in Quebec or Ontario, here are a few concrete examples that may be of interest:
- ABC Internet Matters : Available nationwide, this program is designed to guide Canadians through their online beginnings, so that they can use the Internet with both confidence and security.
- Canadian digital literacy programs : Offering a variety of programs Help Age Canada aims to support seniors in learning how to use digital technology to keep them in touch with their families and friends and help improve their quality of life.
- « Projet ParrAîné.e.s » : This initiative, initiated by Katalizo and supported by partners such as the Government of Quebec, can be described as an intergenerational twinning project. The objective being to counter ageism and social isolation of seniors and encourage solidarity between generations.
Ultimately, the key point to note is that digital literacy for seniors appears as an excellent solution to fully integrate the elderly population within the community. With its many benefits, both collective and personal, learning to use new technologies enables seniors to improve their autonomy and self-confidence, avoid loneliness and social isolation, and make everyday tasks easier. As a society, it is therefore important to overcome the associated challenges, so that we can take full advantage of the benefits of strong intergenerational solidarity!