Canadian seniors are proving you’re never too old to become an Internet sensation.

Instead of focusing on the tick-tock of their advancing years, they’re racking up millions of views on the Tik Tok app. In hilarious videos, Quebeckers aged 70 to 75 have been engaging in activities like dancing, applying makeup and dressing up for a tea party. The Quebec government created a cheeky campaign to promote a spirit of optimism and unity among all ages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And people are watching! As of spring 2021, one of the Tik Tok videos was viewed more than 7.5 million times! At a time when social distancing has left many older people feeling isolated, these elderly Canadians used mobile technology to connect with the entire world.

These tech-savvy seniors are part of a growing trend. An autumn 2020 study of Canadians aged 65 and older found that during the pandemic:

  • 23 per cent had used video calling on their smartphones (that’s double the 2019 figure)
  • 37 per cent had used social media to communicate with friends and family 
  • 50 per cent said technology has had a positive impact on their lives during COVID-19

Despite those encouraging findings, the same survey showed that since the pandemic began:

  • Only seven per cent of seniors had used video for a health appointment 
  • Just 13 per cent had tried exercise apps or fitness trackers 
  • Only 13 per cent engaged in online activities like games or book clubs 

Although 60 per cent of the surveyed seniors believe technology can help reduce their social isolation during COVID-19, older Canadians still face hurdles to adopting high tech. Here are some of the most common obstacles, and how to overcome them. 

Tech training 

There are now more senior citizens in Toronto than children under the age of 15. Unlike today’s kids and teens, however, many seniors did not grow up using technology at home or school. Here are some resources to help them develop digital literacy.

  • Toronto Public Library’s Seniors Tech Help program offers free:
    • Online tech workshops
    • Laptop, computer and smartphone training
    • Internet safety, security and privacy education
    • Assistance accessing digital health and support services
  • TechServeTO, founded by one of YGTA’s Youth Advisors, helps older adults with:
    • Technology workshops
    • Articles
    • Volunteer opportunities
    • Digital resources
  • The non-profit organization, Connected Canadians, offers seniors hands-on training in:
    • Using email
    • Video chatting
    • Phone texting
    • Social Media
    • Online gaming
    • Staying socially connected online in hospital or long-term care

Accessibility 

Changes in vision, hearing, cognition and manual dexterity can hinder the ability of older adults to use digital technology and devices. Here are couple of helpful avenues to explore:

  • Virtual assistance: this voice-activated technology allows seniors to use tablets, smartphones and smart speakers via spoken commands instead of keyboards or touchscreens
  • FamliNet: Created in Canada, this desktop and mobile app is adapted for seniors with loss of vision, hearing and motor skills so they can play games, read news or send photos, texts, voice and video messages. It also features automatic message translation in seven languages!

Making wise digital decisions

Choosing a user-friendly device and affordable connectivity plan can be overwhelming for seniors, not to mention concerns about digital privacy, online safety and cybersecurity. Not to worry — there is help for that.

The charitable organization, HelpAge Canada, provides links to valuable information on all of those challenges under the Cellphone Guide For Seniors section of its website.

Opening a wider doorway to the online world won’t turn every senior citizen into a social media star. But digital connectivity can keep them socially connected, both during the pandemic and after it.

If you’re looking to brush up on your tech knowledge, The Bright Spot is a great place to start. Our Tech Basics class is a beginner-level meetup that covers the fundamentals of online safety and how to make the most out of your digital experience.