A recent review of several articles outlines the emergence of the field of gerotechnology—
an interdisciplinary field that examines the relationships between older adults and new technology. The reviewer identified 287 research papers on older adults and technology, and closely analyzed 18 papers on assistive technologies (AT) as well as information and computer technologies (ICT) representative of the emerging field of gerotechnology. The author argues that future research should focus more specifically on the actual in-context use of technologies by specific older adults.
The review also states that gerotechnology is a convergence of two, previously separate fields—social gerontology and technological studies. Social gerontology is a wide field of study that looks at how older adults respond to aging, analyzed from different social science perspectives. This field gives us insights about how psychology, culture, economics, politics, and other social factors influence our experience of aging. The review also mentions that the influence of social gerontology has meant that much gerotechnological analysis has focused on a structural approach, or how social structural factors (such as economic and other institutional factors) influence the relationship between aging and technology.
Technological studies of aging have applied theories from the study of technology and information sciences to older adult users. These have provided insights based on how user characteristics common to older adults influence how technology is used, and how technology can be applied to deal with aging-related issues. Like the social gerontology approaches, these technological studies have also tended to use a more structural way of understanding gerotechnology. For example, they have focused on how individuals with certain health conditions or educational levels interact with technology. These focus more on the technical aspects of the technology.
The author also asserts that an exclusively structural and technical approach to gerotechnology leads to an overly deterministic view of how individuals interact with technology. Structural approaches provide important social insights, but are limited in how they enable us to understand how older adults might actively incorporate technology in their daily lives and in the contexts that matter to them. Further, the older adult population is rapidly changing, as are the technologies that older adults have available to them. For these reasons, the author argues that further research should focus more on the daily lives of older adults, and involve older adults more actively in the process of research and design.