Ageing and Health in the Digital Society: Challenges and Opportunities

Ageing and Health in the Digital Society: Challenges and Opportunities

Elzbieta Bobrowicz-Campos, Armanda P. M. Matos
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1937-0.ch003
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This chapter describes the innovative solutions generated by the digital society in the field of health and reflects on the effectiveness of the mechanisms implemented in the last decade to increase the adoption of these solutions by the aged population. This reflection begins with the analysis of the digital divide-related issues, relying on the assumption that the lack of a joint multi-stakeholder effort to reduce existing differences in access to digital resources may result in deepening inequality in health. The opportunities and risks for ageing and health in the digital era are presented considering different healthcare purposes, contexts, and end-users' perspectives. Finally, the recommendations to maximize the impact of strategic actions to increase digital literacy and to reinforce digital engagement are presented.
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Today’s society faces digital transformation in almost all its sectors and levels of action. The use of digital resources to create digital solutions is profoundly embedded in the context of personal and professional life, being transversal to different individual, community and social challenges (Dufva & Dufva, 2019; Martin, 2008). Over the last decade, the policy decision-makers have undertaken a substantial effort to increase the availability and accessibility of the digital resources, creating opportunities for their wide and impactful adoption by different community members (Rantala & Suoranta, 2008). Simultaneously, strategic actions have been proposed to increase digital literacy and to reinforce digital engagement in the creation of new products and services in both the public and private sectors. Healthcare and well-being, education, labor market and economy, governance and civic engagement, or public safety are examples of areas targeted by innovation trends. The joint multi-stakeholder effort towards digital inclusion aimed to reduce inequalities existing in the effective participation of citizens in the life of society, attempting to scale up the benefits resulting from the educational, economic, and social opportunities offered by digital innovation. Nevertheless, the gaps in empowerment in the informed use of the digital resources have not yet been overcome, which prevents many citizens from conscious contributing to the formation of the society of the future (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; OECD, 2019).

The concerns on equal adherence to benefits resulting from the products and services offered by the digital society are not recent. For example, the discussion around the digital divide (a phenomenon opposed to digital inclusion) and its consequences for democracy, economic equality and growth, social inclusion, educational attainment, life-course outcomes or personal and public security was at its peak at the beginning of the 21st century (Bucy, 2000; DiMaggio, Hargittai, Celeste, & Shafer, 2004; van Dijk, 2005). At that time, the focus of interest of social science researchers was predominantly on the material, intellectual, motivational and social access to ICT (Yu, Ndumu, Liu, & Fan, 2016), with the most significant barriers to the adoption of new technologies being identified in relation to the reduced possession of technological devices or the permission for their use (material access), and the reduced possession of competences and knowledge supporting ICT acceptance (intellectual access). Other issues found crucial to narrowing/widening the digital divide have considered the level of willingness to adopt ICT in daily life (motivational access), and the level of readiness to create social identities, relations, and conditions that allow for the satisfaction of needs at the personal and/or professional levels (social access). In a broader perspective, the propagation of the digital divide was examined under the restricted availability vs tangibility of material, mental, social, temporal, and cultural resources (van Dijk, 2005). The unequal distribution of those resources was pointed out as one of the indirect causes of unequal participation in society, and therefore as one of the factors responsible for perpetuating the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different personal and positional categories within society (van Dijk, 2012). Finally, from the macro perspective, the higher order mechanisms, such as socio-economic, political or cultural forces, leading to direct or indirect changes in ICT acceptance and usage were acknowledged (Yu et al., 2016). This broader approach allowed to define a framework for developing a shared community understanding of digital inclusion and for creating action plans to reinforce digital transformation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Successful Ageing: Refers to ageing that, despite the existence of age-related diseases and disabilities, is lived with satisfaction and meaning of life, being filled by valued activities.

Digital Society: Refers to society in which digital technologies are widely used to respond to different individual, community and social challenges.

Health Inequalities: Systematic differences in access to health services and products caused by the unequal position of healthcare users in society.

Digital inclusion: Phenomenon describing issues of opportunity to access, adopt and applicate digital innovation in daily life.

Media Literacy: Effect of media education focused on the development of skills needed to access, analyze, evaluate and create media contents.

Digital Divide: Differences on the user’s access to the digital infrastructure and its use to achieve personal and professional outcomes, caused by socio-demographic, socio-economic or geographical factors.

Well-Being: Experience of health, life satisfaction and a sense of meaning.

Digital Transformation: Phenomenon describing the innovative and creative expansion of digital usages ate the society level related to the substantial increase in digital knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

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