Changing Perspectives: Thoughts on Expanding How We View Technology & Aging

A recent article suggests the need to expand the ways that researchers, policy makers, technology designers, and other stakeholders perceive the relationship between technology and aging, suggesting a need for greater appreciation of how technology is used as an inherent aspect of later life.

The authors point out that most discussion on aging and technology takes an interventionist perspective, evaluating the impact of new technologies as solutions to problems of aging. Even with an increasing emphasis on including older adults’ perspectives through participatory design, this article suggests that the interventionist perspective retains a “paternalistic stance.” What is missing is a greater appreciation of technology already being an inherent aspect of later life.

To broaden views of aging and technology, the authors suggest looking at the “co-constitution” of aging and technology. This involves viewing aging and technology from a number of perspectives. One aspect involves looking more broadly at how technology impacts the experiences of older adults. For example, rather than just examining how monitoring technology impacts an older adult’s ability to live longer at home, this perspective would also look at how such technology affects the older adult’s experience of their home.

Another aspect involves focusing not solely on the impact of new technologies, but also on how older adults are using technologies they already have. This can help better attune the design of innovations with existing technologies and the skill sets and technological literacy of older adults. This also involves closer examination of unexpected ways that older adults use technologies, and adapt it to best meet their needs and preferences, learning how technology is used “in the wild.”

Moving beyond the interventionist perspective also involves moving beyond viewing older adults as individuals in need of assistance. This can help “create innovation policy and design that overcomes simplistic and often ageist ideas about older people and their relations with technology.”

Such an approach moves beyond a focus on interventions, solutions, and pre-defined outcomes and provides a broader, richer perspective of the role of technology in the lives of older adults.



Peine A and Neven L. From intervention to co-constitution: new directions in theorizing about aging and technology. The Gerontologist. (2018). DOI: 10.1093/geront/gny050

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