“Digital Ageism” Excludes Some Seniors From Society

New research aims to help seniors stay connected and informed


By Erika Morris


As more and more resources are becoming available primarily or exclusively online, many seniors with a lack of understanding of technology are being left in the dark.

Some seniors lack technological literacy or are intimidated by technology, and many who would love to learn more have no one who can help them. This can lead to people being unable to find phone numbers or directions, or unable to cope with online billing when paper bills no longer arrive in the mail.

Kim Sawchuk, a professor at Montreal’s Concordia University, has been doing research into digital ageism and how it affects Canadian seniors. She’s found that even when seniors are able to adapt to rapidly-evolving technology, not all of them can afford it.

Sawchuk observes that seniors are set to become the largest demographic in the next two decades. In the Western world, an estimated one-quarter of the population will be over age 65. Sawchuk says that digital ageism is excluding some seniors from participating fully as citizens.

According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, other hurdles seniors may face include physical challenges to using technology, skepticism, and difficulties learning to use new technology.

But, Sawchuk points out, seniors are a very diverse group with varying levels of experience and knowledge regarding technology and aren’t all to be grouped together.

It’s been shown that with appropriate support, technology soon becomes an integral part of seniors’ lives, according to the Pew report. In the last decade, the number of seniors with cell phones, for example, has gone up significantly. Sawchuk says the problem isn’t age but rather experience.

Sawchuk’s research includes work with the Aging + Communications + Technologies project, which is committed to battling digital ageism.

Photo: iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz.