When ageism goes digital

When ageism goes digital

Despite a growing majority of older adults are today using the internet in Europe, Dr. Maria Sourbati stresses age discriminating digital datasets compromise our capacity to build an age-inclusive, smart and sustainable future for everyone. 

Across EU-28 54% of people aged 65-75 used the internet in 2017. In one in four Member States, this rises to over 80%. This growing body of digital technology users remain too often absent within public sector, academic and commercial surveys, qualitative datasets and national statistics. As an example, the Eurostats database on the uses of technology includes overall statistics for adults over the age of 75 for four countries only.

Age discriminating datasets reflect persistent myths about digital migrants and natives. We still think of technological innovation as the domain for the young. We still consider older people as being no longer technologically competent or interested in using the same technologies as younger adults.

Data gaps come at a high cost for social inclusion. With our research instruments, protocols, methods and funding geared towards excluding older adults little we know about how people use the technologies at the centre of smart living and health such as mobile phones and tablets.

As algorithms can discriminate based on the data they lack ageism can deepen with digital data. Unless we act now, today’s age-biased data will leave their footprint over our future information society.


Below you may watch Maria’s talk about why an all age-inclusive society needs age-inclusive data


Read also:

Digital society: A better world… for all?

Our thematic focus on ageism and participation


Dr. Maria Sourbati is Senior Lecturer at the School of MediaCentre for Digital Media Cultures at the University of Brighton. She participated in the COST Action research group on ageism. Her research explores social implications of technological change and transformation of the media technologies and services through digitalisation and ageing.


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