Digital Literacy and Older Adults’ Experiences with Technology

This project aims to address the digital divide through the perspectives of older adults.




Department of Gerontology


GERO 301


  • Theodore Cosco

City of Vancouver:

  • Eric Kowalski

Student Team:

  • Rachael Mannie


  • Healthy City for All


Fall 2020


This is a study protocol that aims to address the issue of fostering greater connectedness and better mental health among older adults with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are living in an increasingly online world, and older adults are falling through the cracks. The digital divide is the gap in access to and use of technologies between younger adults and older adults. While the presence of technology has continued to increase, the digital divide shows gaps in access, uptake, and use of technologies among older adults. Older adults face more barriers to the use of technology as many are considered “digital immigrants”, where many older adults have not had the same lifelong exposure to technology like the internet as younger people, and so have had to adapt to using it later in life.

Social isolation is a major issue for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this issue is even greater for older adults. Younger people are able to mitigate the negative effects of social isolation with the use of technology to reach their social support networks, like Zoom, online messaging, and online gaming. However, older adults are less able to access these supports, as well as financial and health care services, through digital means. This project consists of one-on-one, semi-structured interviews with older adults, exploring barriers to the access, uptake, and use of technology, the fear surrounding new technology, and the best ways to improve digital literacy among older adults according to older adults. The knowledge gained from this project can inform future research on the digital divide, looking at the psychological aspects of the digital divide, as well as program evaluations with older adult perspectives. The knowledge can also inform the development and implementation of programs and services to improve digital literacy among older adults.

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