Online safety / November 08, 2021

Supporting seniors with digital literacy

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee

Senior Project Manager, TELUS Wise

Two women, one younger and one older, looking at a tablet device together

While COVID-19 has impacted our society in more ways than we could imagine, a silver lining that has emerged is the increased use of technology among seniors as a means to stay connected, shop for essential items like grocery, and even access health and well-being services. According to a recent poll by AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, 88% of Canadians aged 65 and over use the internet daily:

  • 37% use social media
  • 30% are streaming
  • 19% use online shopping
  • 13% engage in online social activities like book clubs and online games
  • 13% use exercise or activity apps/trackers, and
  • 7% use food delivery apps

The benefits are clear and with many seniors reporting having felt isolated during the pandemic, technology can play a critical role in helping reduce these feelings and the associated risks - including depression, cardiovascular disease, and more.

So what can we do to help equip seniors with the skills they need to participate in our digital world safely? Seniors will often turn to friends and family for help with technology and it can be easy to quickly answer their questions without taking the time to really ensure they understand or to just complete the task at hand for them. The old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” suggests however, that it's worthwhile to take the time to help them learn how to use technology. This is even more important today in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the value that technology brings in helping us stay connected and informed.

In honour of National Senior Safety Week, check out these tips to help you support the development of digital literacy skills among the seniors in your life:

1. Be positive and patient: Ask what they like to do online and what they’d like to do more of so you can develop a plan together. Start small and plan multiple sessions so that you don't overwhelm them in one sitting.

2. Avoid jargon: Pay attention to the language you use and choose clear, simple terminology. When you introduce a new term,explain what it is and what it does, e.g. a SMS – or Short Message Service is the technology that allows traditional text messages to be sent and received on mobile phones.

3. Emphasize the value: Show a senior how to video chat with friends and family, attend a virtual book club, play online games, learn new hobbies or look up photos on social media. This can motivate them to want to learn more. Beyond social connections, there are many practical uses you can emphasize like how to book appointments online, order groceries or stay up to date on the latest news.

4. Encourage them to write it down: As you move through different topics they are interested in, encourage them to take notes. If they get lost or forget how to do something, they can refer back. Remember to talk about strong passwords and educate them on the benefits of using a Password Manager.

5. Share digital safety and privacy tips: Discuss potential risks that accompany going online, like scams, privacy risks and identity theft, and how they can protect themselves by leveraging trusted, reputable resources like the TELUS Wise Seniors Guide. Reinforce that while there are digital safety risks to look out for, we can protect ourselves by being vigilant and staying informed.

Another great resource to help seniors confidently navigate our digital world is TELUS Wise online basics. Developed in partnership with MediaSmarts, these short, informative videos are intended for people who are just getting started with digital technology and helps them learn basic, everyday digital skills. The videos cover topics such as how to choose a device and operating system, connecting to the internet, using a browser, search engine and more.

Learn more at telus.com/WiseOnlineBasics or access the YouTube playlist here.

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