Digital technology and older people: towards a sociological approach to technology adoption in later life

Barbara Barbosa Neves, Geoffrey Mead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Despite increasing social pressure to use new digital technologies, older people’s adoption of them remains below other age groups. This article contributes a sociological dimension to exploring what facilitates learning and using digital technology in later life. We focus on the understudied group of older people who are frail, living in care homes and most likely to be digitally excluded or restricted. Drawing on data from a longitudinal mixed methods study of a co-designed communication app for older people, we explore how attempts to bridge the ‘digital divide’ unfold in time. Using the concept of affordances, we show how adoption of a new communication technology is shaped by its design, learning contexts and surrounding social actors. With this work we contribute to novel sociological understandings of technology adoption that are critical for digital inequality research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-905
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • affordances
  • ageing
  • digital inclusion
  • digital inequality
  • digital technology
  • impression management
  • older people
  • relational sociology
  • sociotechnical systems
  • technology adoption

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