older person with ipad

Study shows strong links between digital exclusion and social exclusion among older persons

Older persons who lack knowledge about digital technology risk being isolated and having poorer quality of life. This is shown in a new study by Lina Reneland-Forsman, senior lecturer in pedagogy at Linnaeus University.

"We have ourselves to blame ... we think that we can manage without all that ... all the new stuff, but that's silly ... you will be pushed aside anyways, and I think that in Sweden we do not pay old people all that much attention".

Those are the words of a 73-year old woman who is one of 18 senior citizens who have participated in a study on how older persons come into contact with digital solutions in their everyday lives – through contacts with commercial, democratic, or social arenas in society. The study has been carried out by Linda Reneland-Forsman, senior lecturer in pedagogy at Linnaeus University, and was recently published in International Journal of Lifelong Education. It shows that older persons who lack digital competences are exposed to a number of risks.

"My study shows that there are strong links between digital exclusion and social exclusion. It suggests that digital exclusion can result in clear lifestyle changes, like, for instance, refraining from travelling and cultural activities, and also self-blame and an acceptance of isolation", says Reneland-Forsman.

From the interviews it is made clear how important it is for digital inclusion and digital participation to have access to a former workplace or to be able to "borrow" competence from a social network. However, the participants did not mention community arrangements as resources for gaining knowledge about digital solutions, which indicates that hard work is required to include this group in different processes in society.

"It's important to shed light on the discussion on choices in relation to isolation. Is it even possible to talk about a choice for this group when it comes to standing outside a digital change of society?", asks Reneland-Forsman.

"We can't ignore the fact that certain groups of citizens are being hindered from maintaining their social lives, having access to the health sector, being able to enjoy integrity, independence, and cultural recreation – in short, the possibility to live dignified lives", Reneland-Forsman concludes.

Based on her study, Reneland-Forsman has a number of proposals on measures for politicians and other decision-makers.

  • Education measures and support closer to everyday life.
  • Parallel development of alternative ways of contact that compensate for lack of own social network or access to a former workplace.
  • That national groups from different sectors are established to investigate the consequences among different groups.

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