NEW YORK－In November, Paula Mont did something new. The 86-year-old, who hasn't left her New Jersey senior living community in nearly a year, went shopping－online.
Mont used an iPad, equipped with a stylus to help her shaky hands, to buy a toy grand piano for her great-granddaughter. She picked it out from more than a dozen versions of the instrument on Amazon. "It is like a wow feeling. I found it!" Mont said.
The internet has become a crucial link to the outside world during the pandemic, one that millions of people still don't have access to. Among older adults, the lack of internet has even impeded their ability to get vaccinated.
The pandemic has motivated many who have been isolated at home or unable to leave their senior communities to learn something they may have resisted until now: how to buy groceries and more online.
People 65 and older rang up an average of nearly $187 per month online last year, up 60 percent from a year earlier, according to market research firm NPD Group's Checkout Tracking. They still spend less than the average $238 per month by the total population, but they are the fastest-growing group of online shoppers by age group.
The biggest online spenders were people aged 35 to 44 who spent an average of $306 per month online last year, up 40 percent from the previous year, NPD said.
Shopping is one of a slew of activities older people now have to do over the internet, like doctor's appointments and socializing via digital video like FaceTime. Such behavior was forced by necessity; older people face the biggest risk of infection, so it's more dangerous for them to go out.
The transition online has not always been easy.
Children and senior living staff often have to help, an experience that can be both gratifying and difficult.
Barbara Moran, director of social programs for Atria Senior Living where Mont lives, says one of the biggest challenges residents face with their devices is that they are used to pushing, not tapping, as if they're using a touch-tone telephone. She has to repeat tips often.
"I would lie if I didn't say I was frustrated sometimes," said Moran, who sits with Mont－masked and gloved－in the facility's dining room.