The journal Societies has published a new article coauthored by Loredana Ivan and Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol. The article titled “Older people, mobile communication and risks” examines the perceptions of risks by older people in handling mobile technologies, such as mobile phones. The article compares these perceptions between older people in Romania and Catalonia (Spain) and reveals existing cross-national differences. The role of mass media is also taken into account to observe the degree of convergence/divergence between the media’s discourse and older people’s perceptions. This article is part of a Special Issue called New Perspectives on Aging Futures.
Starting from Beck’s concept of reflexivity, the paper investigates differences in risk perception regarding wireless technologies expressed by older people living in Romania and Catalonia (Spain). We combine evidence from conversations held with older individuals in different research projects together with an ad-hoc media content analysis. Our research reveals that seniors’ discourses were consistent with the media prominence of different types of risks in each country. Results show that seniors’ discourses on health risks relate to the way the media discussed them, with Romanian participants, in contrast to older people from Catalonia, expressing no concerns about electromagnetic radiation. Also, Romanian seniors were more concerned about the risk to others—younger family members—whereas seniors in Catalonia were more concerned about their own risks. Seniors from Romania made more references to the country’s development. We discuss aging futures in societies with different risk perceptions. As the media presents the risks associated with digital technologies in differing lights, people’s perceptions are formed accordingly. Also, in countries where technology is perceived as good per se, the techno-optimistic discourse would be reinforced not only by the media but also by the groups exposed to the highest social pressure towards technology adoption—for example, seniors.