With the advancement of Everyday Information and Communication Technologies (EICTs) (such as those that promote e-banking, shopping, and entertainment), a generational divide in its usage has emerged. Technology use is often perceived as a “young man’s game,” suggesting that, relative to their younger more tech savvy counterparts, older adults tend to be technophobic and unwilling or incapable of adopting new technologies. Some researchers have found that older adults may internalize these negative stereotypes about technology use by developing negative Self-Perceptions of Aging (SPA), ultimately developing negative attitudes towards EICTs and decreasing their likelihood of EICT engagement. Other researchers argue that dissatisfying or low EICT engagement can make less tech savvy older adults feel left behind, leading to negative SPA. Given these two possibilities, a new study was conducted to determine the real causal association between EICT engagement and SPA.
To examine this association, researchers used data from the fifth (2014) and sixth (2017) waves of the nationally representative German Aging Survey. Data were used from 3,600 respondents: those who participated in both waves, reported having internet access, and answered questions about EICT engagement. SPA was assessed using three subscales that addressed physical loss, social loss, and personal competence. EICT engagement was assessed by examining the extent to which respondents used the internet for entertainment, banking business, shopping, creating personal content, maintaining relationships with friends and relatives, and searching for new social contacts or information. Researchers then ran statistical models to determine whether SPA exhibited during 2014 predicted EICT engagement in 2017, or visa versa.
The findings indicated that while levels of SPA collected in 2014 did not significantly impact EICT engagement in 2017, greater EICT engagement in 2014 increased the likelihood of exhibiting positive SPA in the form of personal competence three years later. Specifically, EICT engagement led to older adults’ higher self-perceptions of their capabilities, such as learning new things and making plans.
While researchers acknowledged that future studies should explore social factors contributing to low EICT engagement, they concluded that policy makers should promote the empowerment of older adults’ EICT engagement with the intent of preventing declines in SPA.
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Köttl, H., Cohn-Schwartz, E., & Ayalon, L. (2021). Self-perceptions of aging and everyday ICT engagement: A test of reciprocal associations. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 76(9), 1913-1922.