SUDBURY -- While there are no shortage of downsides to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new poll shows it has had some benefits for senior citizens.

A new AGE-WELL poll conducted by Environics Research found that in the last six months, technology use amongst senior citizens has risen considerably, with two thirds of now owning their own smartphones, up more than 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

"Actually what we found is that there's an increase in the use of technology amongst older people, because of the technology itself," said Alex Mihailidis, the scientific director for AGE-WELL.

Not surprisingly, there has been a steep rise in video calls. With self-isolation and quarantine keeping many seniors away from their loved ones, 23 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 are using video calling on their smartphones.

"From those that responded to the survey, they provided feedback around things, such as helping them connect with their families and friends and their healthcare providers using online means," said Mihailidis.

In Sudbury, the Parkside Centre, which offers programs to those over the age of 50 and younger with a disability, has been holding its activities online throughout the pandemic. Natalie Labbee, co-ordinator of its Without Walls program, said registration is up.

"Being up to date with technology is so important because now they are breaking those barriers," said Labbee. "Through Zoom and through our Without Walls program, they are able to participate in the same activities pretty much that they did in person."

Quite impressed

She has been quite impressed with the proficiency of the seniors attending the Zoom sessions, although she admits there has been the odd glitch.

"Often they are readjusting their computers and they're trying to adjust their cameras and their volumes and everyone is really patient with each other," said Labbee. "But seeing them get together and looking forward to saying hello, even if it's just for a few minutes, and then they start their activities of what they've signed up for, is really fun."

The new survey found that 72 per cent of Canadian seniors feel confident using technology.

"This whole notion that seniors are technophobic, we're starting to prove is not as true as we thought," said Mihailidis. "And the one thing to keep in mind obviously is the older adult population is going to be changing over the next few years, whereas the baby boomers become that older cohort, they're going to be very used to being plugged in."