Comunicar Journal Blog

Some further thoughts about ICTs and elderly

Llorente, C.,Viñarás, M. & Sánchez, M. (2015). Internet and the Elderly: Enhancing Active Ageing. Comunicar, 45, 29-36.

Bosch, T. & Currin, B. (2015). Uses and Gratifications of Computers in South African Elderly People. Comunicar, 45, 09-18.

From the two articles published recently on Comunicar, I spot that there has been an increasing interest on elderly’s ICT utility in the academia from different regions. Authors of the articles published in this issue all pointed out that,  previous studies used to focus on ICT use among the young population, who are always the pioneers in waves of social change. But with the prevalence of ICTs, elderlies also join the force, and make a special area for exploration due to some special characteristics carried by this group of population.

Bosch & Currin, focusing on the active role of the old people, found out “how” and “why” some South African elderlies use computer in their everyday life.  The need to communicate and the aspiration of new information have made important reasons for them to use new technologies, especially when they encounter some unavoidable inconvenience when getting older and older. Llorente, Viñarás & Sánchez stressed on what have been brought to the old generation when ICTs become part of their life. Information, Communication, administrative purpose and leisure are the main advantages brought by ICTs. These are also correspondent to Bosch & Currin’s study on old people’s computer use.

Admittedly, I mostly agree with the above authors and I have to say that personal computers and ICTs (internet-based mobile devices) have had big influence on the elderlies in my own family – active ageing. For example, among my family members over 80-year-old, there is a 100% penetration of mobile devices and 80% penetration of internet devices. My grandfather is 86-year-old now and he uses iPad over 5 hours each day for family communication, news reading and entertainment, which are exactly the features pointed out by Llorente, Viñarás & Sánchez. However, he always has hesitation in terms of online transaction. He still remains a traditional way of financial management by keeping money in the own pocket.

Facing the academic findings and my own experience, I can not stop by keep considering some unsolved issues:

While e-commerce has become popular among the young population, is it also applicable to the old generation who is also ICT users? How to further explore the nuanced generation difference in different aspects of ICT use?

Is there any cultural difference on the issue of ICT-elderly relationship?

As I have observed that the online contents attract old people’s attention have very large difference with those draw young people’s attention. In Chinese society, we have something called “graphs of the elderly” (conservative messages or benediction words in very coarse graph design). Is it a noteworthy aspect for further study from a qualitative approach regarding generational differences of online contents?