What Influences Technology Adoption by Older Adults?

| August 18, 2014

Older adults are more likely to accept technology if they think they need it or expect to reap benefits from its use. They are less likely to accept technology if they have access to low-tech supports that are helping them age in place.

Older adults are more likely to adopt technology if they—or their family, friends and caregivers—think the technology is needed or could be beneficial.

They are less likely to accept technology if they have access to other supports that are helping them age in place.

These are some of the findings from a recent research review conducted by a group of Dutch scholars. The group examined studies that had explored older adults’ adoption of technologies designed to: 

  • Alleviate or prevent functional or cognitive impairment.
  • Limit the impact of chronic diseases.
  • Enable social or physical activity. 

The study’s findings appear in the International Journal of Medical Informatics. They were reported in InvestigAge, a publication of the Institute of Aging at LeadingAge Member Mather LifeWays.

Influenced by Need, Expectations, Social Influences and Alternatives

Six themes influenced technology adoption by older adults:

  • Need. Older adults were more likely to adopt a technology if they felt they needed it. 
  • Expectations. Adoption was also influenced by the older adult’s expectation that he or she would receive a benefit from the technology. Possible benefits included increased safety or perceived usefulness.
  • Concerns about the technology itself. Older adults were less likely to adopt technology if they were concerned about its cost, privacy implications, the stigma it would bring, or their ability to use the technology easily.
  • Alternatives to technology. Older adults were also less likely to be interested in adopting technology if they had access to low-tech alternatives that fostered aging in place. For example, older adults who were receiving assistance from a family member or caregiver were less likely to think they had a need for technology.
  • Social influences. Family members, friends or professional caregivers could either encourage or discourage technology adoption.
  • User characteristics. Technology adoption often depended on whether the older adult had a strong desire to age in place or was familiar with technology.

Concerns after Technology Implementation

Researchers found that some of the same factors affecting users’ initial adoption of technology also influenced their acceptance of technology after they began using it.

For example, older adults who were using technology still had concerns about privacy issues and stigmatization associated with that technology.

Perceived need for a technology also remained an important factor in users’ acceptance of a technology they were already using. An expected increase in safety had a positive impact on technology acceptance.

Additional factors negatively affected an older user’s acceptance of technology. These included:

  • False alarms that occurred when using the technology.
  • Concerns about losing or forgetting portable technology devices.
  • Concerns about the technology not working in certain locations. 
  • The availability of home care as an alternative to aging in place technology. 

The level of a user’s overall satisfaction, and the emotions associated with the technology use, could have both positive and negative effects on the acceptance of technology.

“Post-implementation research on technology acceptance by community-dwelling older adults is scarce,” concludes the report. “Further research is needed to determine if and how the factors in this review are interrelated, and how they relate to existing models of technology acceptance.”