The “digital divide” is diminishing between the young and older generations. Technology allows members of the senior population to remain independent longer. Technology has significantly changed the way we live and work, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Internet based platforms have not only complimented traditional communications but have now superseded them. Technology offers the potential to raise the quality of life and to encourage full participation in society. 

Seniors sometimes lag behind in using and benefitting from technology in general and specifically the internet. This is resulting in age-related challenges in creating an inclusive informational society. 

Excerpts from: “Seniors and Technology” Bjorn Niehaus & Ralf Plattfaut (publ. 12/19/2017) 

Technology Acceptance 

Seniors who are younger, more affluent and more highly educated have a positive view of the benefits of online platforms, as well as owning the technology to access them. 

Younger, high income seniors and more highly educated seniors use the internet at rates that equal or exceed the general population. Internet use and broadband adoption drop off dramatically around age 75. This is also the age that the largest percentage of seniors notice significant hearing loss. 

Seniors who are older, less affluent and less educated, and/or with significant health or disability issues (hearing loss being one of them) tend to be largely disconnected from the digital world. 

Barriers to Technology Acceptance 

The Internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting people to news and information, government services, health resources, as well as opportunities for social support. 

Some of the challenges and unique barriers that seniors face when it comes to adopting new technologies are: 

  • Physical challenges – many seniors have physical conditions or health issues, such as hearing loss, that make it difficult to use new technology. 
  • Skeptical attitude towards the benefits – seniors who are not currently using the internet have divided opinions on whether that lack hurts them or not. 
  • Financial barriers – internet use tends to decline at lower income levels. 
  • Security and privacy threats – contributes to fueling fears of technology, concerns about potential disruptions of privacy for invasions of personal and financial security 

Learning New Technology

A compelling number of seniors admit that they need assistance learning to use new devices and programs. Only about 18% of seniors feel comfortable learning to use new technology such as smartphones or tablets on their own while 76% would like assistance to walk through instructions. 

However, once seniors are online, they engage at high levels with digital devices and content. Often it becomes a standard part of their daily routine. Smartphone owners tend to use the internet several time a day. The smartphone also offers seniors who are living with hearing loss technology that can assist with apps for “talk to text” as well as pair with hearing aids for better sound, especially in loud situations. 

Seniors who use Facebook indicate that they log in daily. One in four seniors also admit to playing online games. 

Despite concerns and challenges for seniors, there are a number of areas in which they hold positive views of technology. There are devices that will help seniors with hearing loss communicate with both family and professionals. Amplified phones, Bluetooth apps that work with their hearing aids, and signaling safety devices for their homes are all technology that help those seniors live more comfortably and stay connected. 

Seniors are less inclined to say they like trying new technology, but a lot show a strong preference for early technology adoption and they become the most comfortable using technology. 

The vast majority of seniors recognize and value the importance of home broadband service and believe that having access to high speed internet is essential. 

Excerpts from: Pew Research Center “Older Adults and Technology Use” (publ 04/03/2014) 

Excerpts from: weforum.org “No longer for the young” (publ 07/2019) 

Deaf & Hear Alberta offers programs and services for seniors who are Deaf or hard of hearing. 

Our Deaf Services offer assistance with funding as well as offer classes in American Sign Language. Included is a fully comprehensive interpreting service for both virtual (VRI) and in person ASL interpreting. 

Our Accessibility Services offers personal one-on-one consultations for any assistive listening devices as well as home safety systems with lights and shakers. 

Our Hearing Services programs include educational presentations and webinars. In Calgary, we are able to also offer speechreading classes and peer support for the hard of hearing. 

Our new Calgary program, Igniting Neighbours offers both the Deaf and hard of hearing communities with technology support using a lending library of tablets, as well as assistive equipment to “try before you buy.”  Our trained volunteers will teach seniors how to use the technology and be available to answer questions during the lending period.