Aspects of ICT connectivity among older adults living in rural subsidized housing: reassessing the digital divide


Purpose – This article examines aspects of information communication technology (ICT) connectivity among the understudied population of low-income older adults living in rural and peri-urban subsidized housing. We aim to investigate if variations exist in access and connectivity when economic and housing conditions are constant and use data from northern New England.

Design/methodology/approach – The multidisciplinary, mixed-methods approach involved administering structured surveys using iPads with senior residents (n591) from five housing sites, qualitative observations by field researchers and an ecological assessment of ICT resources at housing, community and state levels.

Findings – All subsidized housing sites were broadband accessible and nearby libraries. Fewer sites had Wi-Fi freely available to residents, and individual residents disparately accessed the Internet. Age and education demonstrably influenced ICT use of social media and email. Technology in the form of iPads used for surveys posed functional challenges for some older adults, but these technology-mediated interactions were also perceived as important sites of sociability.

Originality/value – Older adults disparately access and use ICT relative to socioeconomic status even as housing conditions remain constant, and access and use influences frequency of social connections with friends and family. The findings reveal factors that contribute to the existing digital divide facing older adults and broader lack of digital equity.



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Journal of Enabling Technologies

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