More B.C. seniors online than ever but gaps still exist
A new BC Hydro report finds COVID-19 has driven B.C. seniors to become more tech savvy; yet, many are still not using online tools to their full advantage.
The report titled “Digital divide: COVID-19 pushes B.C. seniors to close technology gap, but challenges persist” finds seniors are spending more time online – a trend that has increased during the pandemic. When faced with being disconnected from family and friends, seniors were forced to adopt new technology quickly. For example, about 60% learned to use video calling applications, such as FaceTime or Zoom since the pandemic began – far more than any other age group.
The report also finds seniors have turned to social media. About three-quarters of B.C. seniors use social media – with most using it daily. Outside of joining TikTok, seniors are the most likely to have joined all other social media platforms over the past year. Overall, social media is likely a big contributor to the one to five hours a day that most seniors admit to spending online, and much like video calling, 60% said they use social media primarily to keep in touch with loved ones.
Despite becoming more proficient using some of the technology, it appears that seniors are still missing out on many of the online benefits available to them. For example, they are 25% less likely to make an online purchase for essential items from the grocery store or pharmacy than other adults in British Columbia. BC Hydro data suggests the same trend with the adoption rate of MyHydro – an online account tool – being the lowest among customers aged 55 or older.
Lack of confidence using new online tools and needing support may be preventing seniors from adopting more new technology. The report finds that 60% of seniors said they typically need help when it comes to setting up a new device or using a new online application for the first time. This is three times more than the 18-34-year-old age group and about twice as likely as the 35-54-year-old age group.
BC Hydro has several tools to support seniors and its customer service team is always available to walk new users through how to use the tools. BC Hydro encourages its customers to:
- Sign up for MyHydro: Track electricity use and cost, access bills, explore bill payment options, and set optional usage alerts and bill reminders using BC Hydro’s online account tool.
- Go paperless: Switching to a digital bill allows customers to get their bill faster, receive email notifications when the bill is ready, check and pay the balance online, and decrease paper waste.
- Consider an equal payment plan: For those who do not want to make the switch to online bill payments, an equal payment plan provides predictable bills each month, and some customers find it helps with their budgeting.