Consequences of digital exclusion
The right to participate in society is fundamental and even stated in our laws. The present situation with older adults being isolated due to the Corona virus shows how vulnerable this right is for those people in our society who have no access to interaction through digital technology.
The phenomenon known as digital exclusion can in the current situation simply be described as exclusion. Older adults are at risk of total exclusion from social connections, deprived of their right to participation, with extensive negative consequences, especially for those with cognitive impairments. As we now are told to socialize and take part in societal conversations through digital media, it becomes increasingly obvious that those who lack this possibility are left outside, isolated. If the consequences of digital exclusion had been taken seriously earlier, this could have been avoided now.
New technology is often seen as the solution to challenges in tomorrow’s care, particularly in elderly care. But the wishes and needs of older adults are rarely driving the development of technology in this field. More often, focus is placed on tech-solutions for eHealth or on more spectacular technology such as virtual biking tours or VR-glasses. The everyday technology used by the older adults themselves is less often in focus, but today this is the kind of technology that is needed in order to maintain social contacts with the surrounding society. That is; technology that enables people to be updated and connected to family and friends, and to access culture and activities that bring pleasure.
Now the exclusion becomes painfully explicit and obvious. We must hear this wake up call; it shows how some people in our society are excluded from the technology that gives us a possibility to enact our citizenship, the technology that we so strongly lean on in our communication today. We should listen to the older adults when they ask for Wi-Fi in nursinghomes, and we need to explore possible avenues to support older adults in their use of those everyday technologies that they want and need to use in their everyday lives. It is obvious now that this cannot wait.
Lena Rosenberg, PhD, ass prof
Louise Nygård, PhD, professor
Staffan Josephsson, PhD, professor
Camilla Malinowsky, PhD, ass Prof and ass head of division, director of the OT-programme
Division of Occupational Therapy, NVS