Understanding older adults’ use of social technology and the factors influencing use

Gemma Wilson-Menzfeld*, Jessica Gates, Santosh Vijaykumar, Deborah Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
310 Downloads (Pure)


Having access and skills to use social technology, i.e. social internet use, social media and social applications, are considered as being vital to online social connection. Whilst evidence exists around facilitators and barriers to general technology use, evidence is limited with regards to the motivators, skills and tangible offline benefits older technology users experience with social technology. Therefore, this study used a qualitative, exploratory method to understand older adults’ experiences of using social technology to connect with others. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 older adults (65+ years) across England, Scotland and Wales. Despite having access to social technology for social connection, and using this technology regularly, multiple barriers impacted motivators and skills for use, namely perceived self-efficacy and fear, the culture of online communication, absence of social capital and physical functioning. Some of these barriers of social technology use are reminiscent of barriers of wider technology use and emphasise the importance of addressing these barriers for digital exclusion, as well as social connection. However, some of these barriers were specific to social technology use and should be considered when providing guidance or interventions to increase older adults’ online social connection. Social connection was a clear tangible outcome to social technology use, and individuals discussed the benefits of using social technology, particularly visual communication tools, for online connection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-245
Number of pages24
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number1
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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