06/22/2012 05:20 EDT

Seniors And Technology: Why Age Really Doesn't Matter


Marion Mills first taught herself how to use a computer at the ripe age of 70.

"I became curious about computers and I'm totally self-taught," she told The Huffington Post Canada.

In 2000, Mills became obsessed with technology and started teaching herself the basic skills of how to surf the web and send out emails. Today, the 82 year old, who lives in London, Ont., has a laptop she uses all the time.

According to a recent poll by the Revera Report on Tech-Savvy Seniors, 70 per cent of seniors view technology as a ticket to independent living. On top of that, seniors who are online find being socially connected technology's biggest perk.

"It's a challenge when members of your family talk about technologies and you haven't got a clue what they're talking about," Mills says.

But as it turns out, some Canadian seniors do have an online presence. According to Statistics Canada, only five per cent of seniors 75 and older were online in 2000 and today, that number has reached more than 27 per cent.

Recently, Mills's seniors home, the Windermere on the Mount Retirement Residence in London Ont., just received six iPads -- something she's excited about.

"I already borrowed one for the weekend," she says. Mills plays her daily word puzzles, reads Shakespeare and catches up with all her favourite news apps right at her fingertips.

The retirement home also teamed up with the University Of Toronto's Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) to provide support for seniors interested in learning technology.

And just like anyone using a keyboard and mouse for a long period of time, there are health risks to watch out for.

"There is always the danger with the repeated use of technologies. It can lead to carpal tunnel, for example," says TAGlab founder Dr. Ronald Baecker. "But we're not encouraging seniors to be online six to eight hours a day, this is just an occasional thing," he says.

Here are Dr. Baecker's four tips for seniors interested in getting plugged in:

5 Tips For Getting Into Technology

Making It Meaningful

Don't just join Facebook or buy the latest tablet to be tech-savvy. Dr. Baecker says technology should be about being socially connected and keeping in touch with family and friends.

Talk It Out

If you're thinking about downloading a new app or trying out a video chat system like Skype, Dr. Baecker says asking your friends and family members who have experience with those particular tools is the place to start.

Don't Base Decisions On The Price

If you're buying a new laptop, don't base your decision on the price. Consider the ease of use and something that will work for you in the long run.

Find Balance

You don't need to send 150 texts a day. Find a balance between your social life and your face-to-face life and make time to fit in some exercise.