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Bran Knowles ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is
a lecturer in the Data Science Institute at Lancaster
University, Lancaster, U.K.
Vicki L. Hanson ( email@example.com) is a Distinguished
Professor in the B. Thomas Golisano College
of Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology,
Rochester, N Y, USA, and President of ACM.
©2018 ACM 0001-0782/18/3
role in demotivating digital uptake,
getting older adults more productively online will require a comprehensive
approach that attends to the real-world social and economic consequences of service digitization, explores strategies for de-risking digital
technologies, and deeply considers
the desirability of the digital world we
are asking older adults to inhabit. In
order to develop technologies that
older adults are able to use, attending
to accessibility requirements for
those experiencing age-related physical and cognitive decline is a must.
But this is clearly not enough. Part of
what we have identified is the importance of older adults’ perception of
the usefulness of technology as a mo-tivator for adoption; but beyond that,
we have also found the contextual milieu within which the technology exists must also be understood and addressed. Attending to the concerns
central to older adults’ resistance to
digital technologies should thus not
be seen as a matter of accessibility or
inclusiveness; we would all be beneficiaries of a more considered approach
to digital development that seriously
considers how we are able to coexist
The older adults we interviewed of-
fered a valuable perspective; for most
of their lives they functioned just fine
without the digital devices and ser-
vices younger generations take for
granted, and they have experienced
firsthand the changes digitization has
brought. The concerns they raised
about digital technologies are valid,
and their applicability to younger gen-
erations is greatly underappreciated,
not least because younger generations
will themselves age. Perceptions of
greater technical vulnerability that
come with aging, and reduced time
and energy for maintaining techno-
logical proficiency, will likely ensure
perception of risk remains a relevant
barrier to adoption of new technolo-
gies by future generations, even if the
particular technologies thought to be
risky might change over time. Like-
wise, while current technologies (such
as online banking) could become so
essential to daily living as to be univer-
sally adopted, universal adoption will
only contribute to future resistance to
change when new technologies arrive.
And finally, while the specific changes
older adults are protesting today may
not be a cause for concern for future
generations, technological innova-
tion will continue to have wide-reach-
ing societal consequences that may
provoke protest among future older
adults who resist the loss of whatever
it is they value. For such reasons, not
only are older adults likely to remain
behind the curve in terms of adoption
for generations to come and require
some degree of accommodation for
their relative lack of proficiency, their
instances of and justifications for
non-use will help draw attention to
the trade-offs being made in develop-
ing new technologies.
The research reported here is supported by research grants from RCUK
Digital Economy Research Hub (EP/
G066019/1), Social Inclusion through
the Digital Economy; RCUK EP/
K037293/1, the Built Environment
for Social Inclusion in the Digital
Economy; and by MobileAge (EU Hori-
zon2020 No. 693319). We thank John
Richards and Nigel Davies for their
help with early drafts of this article
and the anonymous reviewers for their
help with shaping and improving it,
Marianne Dee for help organizing the
interviews, and our participants for
taking part. This research received
ethics approval from Lancaster University (approval number FL15049).
Due to the ethically sensitive nature
of the research, no participants were
asked to consent to their data being
shared beyond the research group
and, as such, the study data cannot be
made publicly available.
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