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Rethinking social relationships in old age: Digitalization and the social lives of older adults


Hülür, Gizem; Macdonald, Birthe (2020). Rethinking social relationships in old age: Digitalization and the social lives of older adults. American Psychologist, 75(4):554-566.

Abstract

Interactions with technology have been shaping human society since its beginning. Recently, digitalization has pervaded all aspects of our lives and provided us with new ways to communicate with our social contacts and develop new social ties. We address how these changes shape the social lives of older adults today. Several factors may give rise to concerns that older adults today are at risk for social isolation, including demographic trends toward smaller families, or reduction of previous activities due to health limitations. At the same time, older adults today have access to new technologies that may enable them to overcome geographical distance and mobility barriers. First, based on models of technology adoption, we review research on digital technology use by older adults. Although older adults use technology at lower rates than other age groups, rates of (social) Internet use are increasing. However, sociodemographic disparities exist in access to technology. Second, we focus on 3 key questions and methodological directions for future research: (a) Does (social) Internet use contribute to more positive social experiences and well-being in old age? (b) What are future methodological directions in the study of social technology use in older adults? (c) Do digital technologies reshape the social experience in old age or do they reinforce existing preferences and behaviors? Addressing these questions will allow us to understand the effects of technology on older adults' daily lives and how this in turn affects multiple domains of functioning (e.g., well-being, cognitive function, physical health) in future generations.

Abstract

Interactions with technology have been shaping human society since its beginning. Recently, digitalization has pervaded all aspects of our lives and provided us with new ways to communicate with our social contacts and develop new social ties. We address how these changes shape the social lives of older adults today. Several factors may give rise to concerns that older adults today are at risk for social isolation, including demographic trends toward smaller families, or reduction of previous activities due to health limitations. At the same time, older adults today have access to new technologies that may enable them to overcome geographical distance and mobility barriers. First, based on models of technology adoption, we review research on digital technology use by older adults. Although older adults use technology at lower rates than other age groups, rates of (social) Internet use are increasing. However, sociodemographic disparities exist in access to technology. Second, we focus on 3 key questions and methodological directions for future research: (a) Does (social) Internet use contribute to more positive social experiences and well-being in old age? (b) What are future methodological directions in the study of social technology use in older adults? (c) Do digital technologies reshape the social experience in old age or do they reinforce existing preferences and behaviors? Addressing these questions will allow us to understand the effects of technology on older adults' daily lives and how this in turn affects multiple domains of functioning (e.g., well-being, cognitive function, physical health) in future generations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:19 Aug 2020 14:06
Last Modified:20 Aug 2020 20:00
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0003-066X
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000604
PubMed ID:32378949

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