Digital urbanisation and the dignity of older citizens

Holland, Caroline (2014). Digital urbanisation and the dignity of older citizens. In: IUAES 2014 with JASCA: The Future with/of Anthropologies, 15-18 May 2014, Makuhari Messe, Chiba, Japan.



20th and early 21st century depictions of ageing in place, particularly those based on experiential and phenomenological explorations, have relied heavily on the significance of domestic and neighbourhood connections. At global and national levels, the impact of ageing populations is primarily positioned in terms of economies and ‘burdens of care’. Within this context older people’s use of technologies has largely been studied to (a) understand the potential of assistive technologies/telehealth/telecare and (b) investigate older people’s attitudes to using technologies. The salience of age, as distinct from other factors -wealth, education or culture - has been described in terms of physical and cognitive ageing, cohort effect, and the impact of individuals’ lifetime exposure to technologies. Arguably, physical and cognitive disabilities can be ameliorated by design: but structural issues mean that emerging cohorts comfortable in digital spaces will not necessarily eliminate age as a barrier to inclusion in social networks. If digital relationships are increasingly central to daily life, what does this imply for the embodied nature of ageing in place and dignity and meaning in older people’s lives? ICTs have the capacity both to liberate people from the constraints of bodily ageing, and to undermine dignity through age-averse or age-blind ontologies.
Based on research associated with Value Ageing, an EU-funded study of ICT and Ageing, and other recent studies, this paper discusses the meaning of digital urbanisation for older people, in particular looking at implications for the dignity of older citizens with respect to social inclusion in digital and non-digital networks.

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