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Middle-Aged and Older Adults' Information and Communication Technology Access: A Realist Review

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There continues to be a gap in information and communication technologies (ICTs) access and use between younger cohorts that have grown up with the technology (generation X and younger) and the next previous cohort (baby boomers and older). This is more pronounced among cohorts born prior to the 1930s, which have low access and use rates. Birth cohort, education, and income interact to create differences in familiarity, skill, and personal preference such that older adults with more education and higher incomes are more likely to access and use ICTs.Training and support is one strategy that has been identified as able to increase access and use of ICTs among middle-aged and older adults. However, training needs to be tailored, relevant, and ongoing. Community service organizations that provide training and support require infrastructure support to purchase computers and tablets every three years as new technology emerges. In addition, ongoing funding is required to provide necessary training and support. This could be connected with other home programs, as in-home services are preferable.Negative stereotypes associated with ageist perspectives of older adults need to be systematically challenged and dispelled through public service campaigns and in mass media. Representations of older adults as incapable of learning how to use ICTs serves to perpetuate the digital divide.Usable and accessible design can enhance use of ICTs as some adults experience physical challenges such as declines in vision and hearing, and increased arthritis in their hands. Applying principles of universal design, and creating products that are accessible, reliable, and functional for most people, including those with disabilities, can lead to a generation of products that meet the needs of older adults.
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