Social commentators in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States are beginning to recognise that encouraging older adults' use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is essential for the creation of bona fide information societies. To date, however, few studies have examined in detail older adults' access to and use of ICTs. This important aspect of the interaction between population ageing and societal change is more complex than the published literature's portrayal of a dichotomy between ‘successful users’ and ‘unsuccessful non-users’. The paper examines the extent and nature of ICT access and use by older adults in their everyday lives. Information was collected from a sub-sample of 352 adults aged 60 or more years taken from a large household survey of ICT use in England and Wales among 1,001 people. The findings suggest that using a computer is not only a minority activity amongst older adults but also highly stratified by gender, age, marital status and educational background. Conversely, non-use of computers can be attributed to their low relevance and ‘relative advantage’ to older people. The paper concludes by considering how political and academic assumptions about older people and ICTs might be refocused, away from trying to ‘change’ older adults, and towards involving them in changing ICT.
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