Top Seven Reasons Seniors Use the Internet for News

If you’ve been following the American presidential elections, chances are you’ve watched the debates on television or read about them in the international section of your local newspaper – just like the majority of today’s older generations. However, many Canadian seniors are switching on their smart phones, tablets and laptops to supplement their news consumption and stay up to date – and in increasing numbers. With the number of benefits that using the Internet for news provides, it’s no wonder! Here’s a short list of the different ways that supplementing your news consumption with online media outlets can benefit you.

Take Charge and Break Stereotypes

In 2007, Statistics Canada found that over half of Canadian seniors use the Internet to read and research the latest travel, health, sports, weather, and driving condition news. Today, 60% of Canadian seniors use the Internet, up from 10% in 2000. In fact, seniors are the fastest growing group of Internet users. The popular sentiment that seniors are out of touch and out of date is a myth. CBC News interviewed Trish Barbato, Senior Vice-President of a retirement care provider. “There’s a bit of myth-busting that has to happen in some ways,” she said. “I think that people sort of have a vision of seniors either not being able to learn [or] being afraid of technology . . . and that barrier gets broken pretty quickly. Even within the next 10 years, we’re going to see a huge increase in the senior population that’s using technology.”

Some older Canadians are even replacing their local paper with the Internet. With today’s rising costs, many see buying a tablet and subscribing to the Internet as a sound and cost-effective investment. For Maureen, a retiree in Windsor, Ontario, the switch to the Internet for daily news was a no-brainer: “We got a tablet because there wasn’t much news in our local paper. We weren’t happy with it, and the cost of a subscription to the paper had gotten terribly expensive.”

Read and Watch News as It’s Happening

Seniors who use the Internet as a valuable news supplement can access instant news updates and alerts. Instead of waiting until the next morning to read the newspaper or until 6:00 or 11:00 p.m. to watch the evening’s news, they can learn about local and international current events as they’re happening. Many seniors find this useful for learning about car accidents or other tragedies in their neighbourhoods. “If I hear a siren, I’m curious. I want to know where it’s going and what happened. And checking the news assures me right away that it’s not someone I know,” says Chris of Wallaceburg, Ontario. The Ottawa Citizen’s app provides local news alerts, and the paper’s articles can be accessed simply by opening the app. Most newspapers also have social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and post regular and quick updates as news stories unfold. The Ottawa Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Globe and Mail all have social media accounts that provide instant news updates. Those who don’t want news and weather alerts can choose to opt out of them while still enjoying many apps at their leisure.

Be Prepared With Weather and Safety Alerts

Older Canadians who use the Internet for news see the alerts as crucial, life-saving tools. Many only learn about tornado, flood, or neighbourhood safety warnings from radio or TV broadcasts, and TVs and radios are not always switched on. Smart phones, on the other hand, are usually on, so with the right apps they provide alerts at all times, both saving lives and keeping users safe and informed. Apps such as AccuWeather, The Weather Network, and SpotCrime can provide you with local weather, news, and safety alerts. The apps can be installed on smart phones, tablets, and laptops, increasing the chances that you’ll learn about local dangers and be prepared.

Watch Missed Broadcasts without Taping Them

News websites and apps are also helpful tools for those who miss important broadcasts that they want to see. Not everyone is able to watch live coverage when important events happen, especially when spending time with friends and family. Since the most recent US presidential debate fell on our Thanksgiving weekend, many who were interested in it were unable to watch it live. However, most news sources archive videos of their big stories and broadcasts on their websites. Anyone who missed the most recent presidential debate can easily access it on the NBC News’s YouTube page or on the New York Times’s website, and the same is true for any other broadcast. CBC Ottawa airs its evening news broadcasts online, so that viewers who missed them can see them at a later time – and those who miss a favourite team’s sports game can catch the game online after it airs. The same is true for many news and sports networks today.

Overcome Physical Barriers

For some, however, alerts and updates aren’t the main reason for their choice to use the Internet. Instead, many seniors have made the switch to Internet news because of the physical barriers posed by traditional news outlets. Many struggle to read the small print that their daily newspaper uses, while others dread walking to the curb to collect their paper when the ground is snowy and icy in the winter, afraid they will fall. Laptops, tablets, and smart phones overcome both of these barriers. Today’s devices allow users to make photos and print larger and screens brighter or darker with just a few clicks, and with most devices users don’t even have to leave their warm beds to read the news. That means that on cold winter mornings, seniors who use the Internet as a news source can sip a hot coffee and read their favourite paper without worrying about slipping on ice, and those who have trouble reading the newspaper can still maintain their morning routines.

Connect with Others, Share Your Opinion, and Interact with the Media

With most news websites or apps, older generations also interact with their news sources directly, simply by pushing a button. They don’t have to wait on hold on the telephone to provide media with feedback, and their suggestions and comments can immediately be echoed by others, giving their feedback more weight. Most newspaper or TV network websites or social media accounts allow users to publically comment on articles and videos, and many media outlets are aware of the comments and feedback they receive. What’s more is that readers don’t always have to wait and hope that their letter to the editor will be printed. Public comments provide a quick and easy way for seniors to share their opinions with their communities. Most importantly, the Internet prevents loneliness by connecting seniors who are physically unable to participate in their communities with other seniors who have similar news interests and political viewpoints. Barbara Rankin, a senior in Edmonton, Alberta, told Global News that this is a key aspect of using the Internet for news and other activities: “I think it’s wonderful for the isolated senior or isolated person to be able to go online and communicate with others.”

Choose Time Well Spent

With all of the benefits that supplementing news consumption with the Internet provides, time spent learning about the Internet and computers is time well invested, especially as older Canadians are the biggest consumers of today’s news. Marion Mills, a senior interviewed by Radio Canada International, says her investment in a computer and the Internet was a wonderful choice.  “[The Internet is] just a great tool to learn more . . . there’s no reason why, as we age, people would ever think we’re not interested in what’s going on in the world,” she told Radio International Canada. “I find technology is just a wonderful way to access all of those things.”

Do you use the Internet to supplement your news consumption, or are you considering it? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Click “Leave a comment” below to let us know, or share this blog post with a friend or family member who’s considering making the switch!

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