“It’s my choice”: Older people and mobile communication

Period: 2010 – 2011

Source of funding: Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canadà (SSHRC)

Project framework: A-C-M Project

Principal investigator: Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Collaborator: Lidia Arroyo Prieto, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Research assistant: Daniel Blanche, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

Description: Mobile telephony is the most widespread information and communication technology (ITC) and follows the same trend that other ICT: those who show typically slower rates of adoption are older individuals. It is relevant, therefore, to explore the motivations and reasons for non-adopting and adopting mobile telephony among seniors. We focus on two cities: Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) and Los Angeles (CA, USA). In Catalonia, up to 95% of the average population are mobile users, while among seniors the figure drops to 82% (age 65-74). In the USA, the percentage of mobile users is 85% for the average population and 68% of seniors between 66 and 74. In a context of such presence of this technology, those who opt out often need to justify their decision because they face social pressures for being reachable in the same way others are by mobile phones.

Methodology: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2010 and 2011 on both mobile users and non-users. Within this non-probabilistic sample, a majority of individuals were mobile users, with 11 individuals out of 73 being non-users at the moment of the interview. Among non-users, some people had never owned a cell phone and others gave their phone up at a certain point.

Expected results: The goal of this analysis is not to put forward recommendations for increasing mobile subscription among older people, but to understand personal choices regarding this specific technology. We approach this analysis by taking into account that, nowadays, not having a cell phone in the two studied cities might mean the person without the phone has taken a solid stance on the issue.

Case studies: