Bridging the digital divide in older adults: a study from an initiative to inform older adults about new technologies

Clin Interv Aging. 2015 Jan 9;10:193-200. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S72399. eCollection 2015.


Purpose: In a society where technology progresses at an exponential rate, older adults are often unaware of the existence of different kinds of information and communication technologies (ICTs). To bridge the gap, we launched a 2-year project, during which we conducted focus groups (FGs) with demonstrations of ICTs, allowing older adults to try them out and to share their opinions. This study aimed at investigating how participants perceived this kind of initiative and how they reacted to different kinds of ICTs.

Patients and methods: In total, 14 FGs were conducted with community-dwelling older adults, with a frequency of two FGs on the same topic once per trimester. Twenty-three older adults (four men and 19 women) attended at least one FG but only nearly half of them were regular attendants (ten participating in at least five sessions). Age of participants ranged from 63 years to 88 years, with a mean of 77.1 years. All of them had completed secondary education. The analyses of the data were performed according to inductive thematic analysis.

Results: Four overarching themes emerged from the analysis. The first concerned participants' motivation for and assessment of the project. The second theme identified the underlying factors of the "digital divide" between the younger and the older generations. The third theme concerned the factors of technology adoption among older adults. The fourth one identified participants' attitudes toward assistive ICTs, designed specifically for older adults ("gerontechnologies").

Discussions and conclusion: This project encouraging older adults to be informed about different kinds of ICTs was positively rated. With regard to ICTs, participants perceived a digital divide. The underlying factors are generation/cohort effects, cognitive and physical decline related to aging, and negative attitudes toward technologies. However, more and more older adults adopt different kinds of ICTs in order to fit in with the society. Concerning assistive ICTs, they manifested a lack of perceived need and usefulness. Also, there was a negative image of end users of this kind of technologies. The so-called gerontechnologies specifically targeting older adults contain stigmatizing symbolism that might prevent them from adopting them.

Keywords: assistive technologies; attitude; digital divide; gerontechnology; technology acceptance; technology adoption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ageism / prevention & control*
  • Ageism / psychology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attitude to Computers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living* / education
  • Independent Living* / psychology
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Help Devices / psychology*