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Technology & Ageing @BsgTechAgeSig

The Technology & Ageing SIG aims to bring all academics, early career/researchers and doctoral students together who work across the area of Technology & Ageing.

BSG Technology and Ageing Special Interest Group Symposium; Using technology to facilitate communication – social and care relationships in later life

The recording of this session is now available to view on our Ageing Bites channel.

9:00 - 11:00, Thursday 2nd July, 2020

Chair: Dr Grant Gibson.  University of Stirling

Within ageing policy discourse and practice, technology is increasingly being viewed as a means to support the well-being and quality of life of older people.  Technologies research within gerontology (or gerontechnology) has largely focused on supporting older people with assisted living needs such as dementia to live at home or providing new opportunities to engage with health and social care services, with the associated assumed benefits of increasing care service efficiencies.  Recent years have seen attention being paid to technology’s transformative impact on social and caring relationships among older people, by enabling ‘care-at-a-distance’, but also by facilitating new forms of social and civic relationships. 

This symposium, presenting research by members of the BSG Technology and Ageing Special Interest Group, explores the burgeoning body of work investigating the potential and scope of technologies to transform older people’s social relationships; with each other, with their families and with the various elements constituting civic society. Dawson et al begin by discussing current research which challenges the assumption that technologies inevitably lead to improvements in older people’s quality of life.  Lariviere then explores the role of technology in shaping the experience and practice of care in later life.  Llorenz-Dant and Freddolino then explore the experience of technologies among carers of people living with dementia.  Tinker concludes the symposium with a discussion of the social and institutional dynamics which occur when older people introduce online sourced information to GP’s.


Title.  Technology and social connectedness: expectations, assumptions and evidence.

Dr Alison Dawson, Dr Louise McCabe, and Dr Elaine Douglas

University of Stirling.

Loneliness, defined as an emotional state which results from perceived isolation, is generally experienced by people as unpleasant and is associated with negative health consequences which can lead to increased formal health and social care use. Maintaining and/or increasing a person’s social connectedness is assumed to be protective against or ameliorating feelings of loneliness and their associated impacts on health. There is an expectation that interventions which are based on or incorporate the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), e.g. mobile telephony, smartphone apps, social networking and other internet-based services or interventions, will help to maintain or increase social connectedness for a wide range of different user groups. This paper critically examines these and other expectations and assumptions revealed through analyses of primary and secondary data around use of technology-based interventions to maintain or increase social connectedness. To test these expectations and assumptions it draws on findings from a range of activities carried out to inform the development of guidance for organisations and individuals using technology to promote social connectedness collected in the course of a recent study, including: a targeted and systematically conducted literature review; analysis of data from HAGIS, the Healthy Ageing In Scotland survey; focus group discussions; and co-production activities. These findings suggest that: evidence of a positive relationship between current ICT use and social is primarily based on data from cross-sectional surveys and gives no indication of causality; HAGIS data shows that some people with many social connections report often feeling lonely, and some people with few social connections report rarely or never feeling lonely; published evidence of the effectiveness of services or interventions designed to maintain or increase social connectedness is sparse; most reported studies of interventions have important or major design-related limitations; many interventions integrate multiple categories of ICT, making it challenging to determine the relative contributions of each to measured outcomes; cross-sectional studies suggest the existence of ‘digital divides’ in ICT use, e.g. in relation to age, employment status / occupation, household income, but implications of these are rarely discussed in reports of testing of services or interventions; some studies note but do not explain individual differences in the uptake and use of some ICT-based services or interventions; and there is insufficient evidence available to identify what services or interventions will work best for whom and in what circumstances. Further high quality research in this area is urgently required.


Title.  Ageing well, technically: How technology shapes care and later life

Dr Matthew Lariviere.

University of Sheffield.

Increased human longevity is expected to place greater pressures on health and social care systems in the UK and globally. Given the fragility of these systems arising from chronic staff shortages, increased care responsibilities for family carers, and an extensive period of austerity, health and social care face an existential threat. Governments and industry influencers suggest that technologies may salve these haemorrhaging systems as well as support national and international initiatives for “ageing in place”, “ageing well” and “healthy ageing”. Yet some older people, carers and ethicists are wary that technologies will reduce human contact and quality of care.

This paper explores the intersection of technology with sensibilities and practices of care and experiences in later life. Starting from the central premise that technologies already pervade health, care and everyday life, it examines how people’s interactions with new technologies, such as robots and digital monitoring systems, may affect and shape the logics and realities of caring and the quotidian in later life. In doing so, it leaves open further consideration for what care means to us, and how the advent of digital technology and AI may affect our understanding, experience and practice of sustainable care.


Title. Presenting internet-sourced information to the GP – a culture of concealment

Professor Anthea Tinker

Kings College London

A qualitative study of older people who had consulted the internet before a visit to their General Practitioner (GP) found a culture of concealment.  Only half the participants felt able   to disclose to their GP that they use the internet to seek health information online. This includes both those who had and had not previously disclosed this information. The most common reason for concealing this information was fear of potentially insulting the doctor. Of those who had presented online health information to the GP, the GP’s response impacted the patient’s relationship with their doctor, rather than their information seeking behaviour.  The GP’s response made a significant impact in strengthening or harming the doctor-patient relationship.

An increasing number of older people use the internet for a variety of reasons, including seeking information about health. There are interesting findings about the perceptions of the reliability of the web and the legitimacy of websites. There was an awareness of sites sponsored by food and drink industries and ‘fake news’.

Policy implications include the need for accurate health information on the Internet and an acknowledgment that patients are becoming more informed. There is also need for an acknowledgement by policy makers and practitioners that some older people will have had access to medical information before visiting their GP.

The study took place at the University of the Third Age in London and involved 14 older people in their 60s to late 80s: half were men and half women.


Title.  If adult education can tackle the digital divide, can digital skills facilitate adult online learning?

Dr Neil Chadborn and Dr John Miles

University of Nottingham.

At last year’s conference we decided to hold a joint event between Educational Gerontology and Technology and Ageing Special Interest Groups. November 2019 was 100th anniversary of the Adult Education Commission, and we planned our event to coincide with publication of an anniversary report. One author of the report, Sharon Clancy, was invited as our first speaker. The 1919 commission called for education for all, at a time of great social change, and our event considered whether our current times are similarly disruptive. A key message of the anniversary report was to strengthen the civic rhetoric, where currently our political discourse is narrowly focused on interests of the individual. Online learning was put forward as an opportunity for the future of adult education.

Substantial barriers are perceived by older people in accessing online resources. Cyber fraud and privacy were key issues identified within research presented by Elvira Perez-Vallejos and Helen Creswick. Our traditional relationship with institutions involves walking into a branch of the bank on the high street; ‘bricks and mortar’ conveys trustworthiness. However it may be difficult to engender a sense of trust in online institutions and ‘paperless’ transactions.  Learning digital skills can build confidence in interactions with institutions and resources online, but the other side of digital literacy is how websites accommodate the needs of older users.

Two workshops and discussion followed, exploring local examples of engaging older adults in learning and digital skills. The group considered the social purpose of learning in later life; that it should avoid constraints of accreditation. Local groups can support individuals with digital skills to enable older people to gain agency in the digital world. Furthermore as older people gain confidence, this may facilitate a collective civic space online.


Aims & Objectives:

This field has grown considerably over the last 10-15 years and it is vital that all those who are working and interested in this domain share their experiences, knowledge, skills with one another.


  • Neil Chadborn- Lead

  • Jon Woolham

  • Emma Koivunen- Scheduling Meetings

  • Grant Gibson- Social Media

  • Malcom Fisk 

  • Michael Rupp

  • Katie Brittain- Taking Minutes 

  • Jenni Lynch

  • Josie Tetley

  • Charles Musselwhite- F2F Meetings (within the year)


Christian Beech

Hilary Farnworth

Nervo Verdezoto

Yuanyuan Yin

David Hobbs

Josephine McMurray

Pei-Chun KO

Yvette Vermeer

Duncan Banks

Julie Samuels

Peter Samsa

Zemfira Khamidullina

Elif Sürer

Louise McCabe

Sally Whelan

Elvira Perez Vallejos

Lynne Coventry

Stanislaw Piasecki

Gigliola Brintazzoli

Neil Chadborn

Theodora Bowering

Joining the SIG:

If you wish to be part of the Technology & Ageing SIG, please contact: Neil Chadborn:

Social Media:

Many of our SIG members are on Social Media including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. If you would like to keep up to date with our members please see the list below:

Duncan Banks

Twitter: @duncan_banks

Elif Sürer
Twitter: @ElifSurerMETU

Neil Chadborn
Twitter: @nchadborn
Research Gate
ORCID: 0000-0003-1368-7983 

Julie Samuels
Twitter: @juliesamuels

Hannah R. Marston
Twitter: @HannahRMarston
Instagram: marston_hannah 
Research Gate
ORCID: 0000-0002-8018-4166

Emma Koivunen
Twitter: @emmantro

Grant Gibson
Twitter: @DrGrantGibson

Malcolm Fisk
Twitter: @malcolmjf

Michael Rupp

Twitter: @malrupp

Katie Brittain
Twitter: @BrittainKatie

Jenni Lynch
Twitter: @jklynch24

Josie Tetley
Twitter: @DrJosieTetley

Charles Musselwhite
Twitter: @charliemuss

The BSG Society is active on Twitter and you can follow via @britgerontology.


As part of the SIG we are expected to hold a SIG symposium. Below is a brief overview of past and current SIG symposiums.

Past Symposiums

2018 – Mobile e-Health, insights from the Edited book (2017, Springer)

Current/Forthcoming Symposiums

2019 – We are submitting a symposium abstract which we hope will be accepted for the forthcoming annual conference.

Minutes of SIG meetings:

As a SIG we meet bi-monthly usually online to discuss plans for the SIG and other issues that SIG members would like to raise. We meet face-to-face (F2F) at the Annual Conference and we aim to meet once within the year. Dates and Times are still to be confirmed for the forthcoming meetings.

Minutes of Meetings:

  • July 2018 – Face to Face Meeting – Manchester

  • September 2018 – Virtual Meeting

  • November 2018 – Virtual Meeting

  • January 2019 – Virtual Meeting

Forthcoming Meetings:

  • March 2019 

  • May 2019

  • July 2019 – F2F Meeting – Liverpool: 12.45-13.45 on 10th July. Location TBC.