10/28/2013 09:09 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Seniors spurring Internet growth in Canada; e-commerce growing: StatsCan study

OTTAWA - The number of Internet users in Canada continues to grow, spurred by seniors who have discovered a new digital lifestyle.

According to a new report by Statistics Canada, 83 per cent of Canadians aged 16 or older were Internet users last year, up from 80 per cent in 2010.

The number of seniors using the web grew by 20 per cent in the two-year span, with 48 per cent of Canadians 65 or older saying they went online last year.

It's likely just a matter of time until seniors are no longer lagging other age groups in Internet usage, said Statistics Canada spokesman Mark Uhrbach.

"The use of the Internet may not only be age (based) but there's also sort of a cohort effect," Uhrbach said.

"Once people start using the Internet they're not likely to stop using it as they age. So as young users and boomer-aged users move through the age cohorts perhaps we'll see that trend continue."

Mobile Internet usage exploded in two years by about 75 per cent. While just 33 per cent of those surveyed in 2010 said they accessed the Internet on a phone or tablet, it was up to 58 per cent in 2012. About 85 per cent of younger Canadians aged 16 to 24 were mobile Internet users last year.

Statistics Canada also saw big growth in online shopping, with the value of web orders placed by Canadians hitting $18.9 billion in 2012, up 24 per cent from 2010 when the survey was last conducted.

About 56 per cent of Internet users ordered goods or services online in 2012, up from 51 per cent in 2010, while 77 per cent researched goods or services on the web.

The average Canadian online shopper made about 13 separate orders totalling approximately $1,450 in 2012. Among online shoppers, 58 per cent bought travel arrangements such as airline tickets or hotel reservations and 52 per cent purchased event tickets.

Other trends in the report:

— Social media usage was up by almost 15 per cent as about two-thirds of Canadians reported using a social network last year

— Use of voice or video calling over the Internet nearly doubled as 43 per cent of Canadians reported using a service like Skype or FaceTime last year, up from just 24 per cent in 2010

— Online video viewing has also grown steadily with just over half of the Canadians surveyed saying they downloaded or watched movies or video clips online in 2012, up by almost 20 per cent

— When it came to "Internet intensity," or the term Statistics Canada uses to describe highly active web users, 31 per cent said they spent 10 or more hours online a week last year

— By Michael Oliveira in Toronto