The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Towards a better understanding of what leads to digital inequalities in old age

woman. picture

SWEAH affiliated Arianna Poli, at Linköping University, is defending her dissertation entitled "A Divided Old Age through Research on Digital Technologies".

Having access to and being able to use digital technologies is crucial for participating in today digital societies, but the access and the use of digital technologies are unequally distributed among older people. 

Groups of older people in lower social positions are less likely to have access and use digital technologies compared to groups of older people in better social positions. 

-    In my research, I aimed at contributing to the understanding of the mechanisms leading to digital inequalities in old age, by studying the uneven involvement of older people in research on digital technologies. My findings show that groups of older people who are older, show poorer health status, have (or had) lower job positions, report lower digital skills, are underrepresented in research evaluating digital technology interventions compared to their counterparts. 

These groups are less likely to be eligible and are more likely to decline the invitation to participate in evaluations of digital technology interventions. 

Over-positive results

The results show that such selection leads to an overestimation of the utility of digital technology interventions, as the underrepresented most disadvantaged groups of older people show less or not at all benefits from such interventions. Such over-positive results lead to wrong conclusions on digital technology interventions and encourage digitalisation policies and strategies which increase exclusion risks for groups of older people in lower social positions.

How can your results be of use in society?

-    My results are mostly useful to researchers working with digital technology interventions and to policymakers developing digitalisation policies. Researchers should implement more inclusive recruitment strategies when conducting evaluation of digital technology interventions and should include an analysis of selective participation in their study design. Policymakers should develop digitalisation strategies and policies based on research evidence obtained from samples which reflect the diversity of old age and should take into account differential effects of digital technology interventions on different groups of older people.  

What has SWEAH meant for you and your thesis work?

- SWEAH enriched my PhD education in several ways. Through SWEAH, I was able to build a very good network of PhD students and senior scientists working across Sweden who motivated me professionally and supported socially. Within SWEAH, I was able to get valuable feedback on my thesis work and excellent tips on how to become a good scientist in the field of ageing.

Furthermore, being part of SWEAH made both myself and my work more visible to national and international audiences for example, through social media activities, SWEAH-related activities at major gerontological conferences, the annual SWEAH conferences. Also, I got access to several courses on ageing and health which improved my knowledge on key theories and concepts and, through the SWEAH allowance, was able to take even extra courses abroad. 

Arianna Poli will continue doing research on ageing, inequality and digitalisation.

- I would like to continue studying mechanisms leading to digital inequalities in old age and to investigate the impacts of digitalisation on older people in different life domains, such as working life, social and private life.

To the abstract