Skip to main content Accessibility help

‘That's for old so and so's!’: does identity influence older adults’ technology adoption decisions?

  • Arlene J. Astell (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), Colleen McGrath (a5) and Erica Dove (a1) (a3)


The role of identity in older adults’ decision-making about assistive technology adoption has been suggested but not fully explored. This scoping review was conducted to understand better how older adults’ self-image and their desire to maintain this influence their decision-making processes regarding assistive technology adoption. Using the five-stage scoping review framework by Arksey and O'Malley, a total of 416 search combinations were run across nine databases, resulting in a final yield of 49 articles. From these 49 articles, five themes emerged: (a) resisting the negative reality of an ageing and/or disabled identity; (b) independence and control are key; (c) the aesthetic dimension of usability; (d) assistive technology as a last resort; and (e) privacy versus pragmatics. The findings highlight the importance of older adults’ desire to portray an identity consistent with independence, self-reliance and competence, and how this desire directly impacts their assistive technology decision-making adoption patterns. These findings aim to support the adoption of assistive technologies by older adults to facilitate engagement in meaningful activities, enable social participation within the community, and promote health and wellbeing in later life.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Access Independent Living Services (2015) Aging with a Disability. Available at
Arksey, H and O'Malley, L (2005) Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research 8, 1932.
Astell, AJ, Alm, N, Gowans, G, Ellis, M, Dye, R and Vaughan, P (2009) Involving older people with dementia and their carers in designing computer-based support systems: some methodological considerations. Universal Access in the Information Society 8, 4959.
Astell, AJ, Malone, B, Williams, G, Hwang, F and Ellis, MP (2014) Leveraging everyday technology for people living with dementia: a case study. Journal of Assistive Technologies 8, 164176.
Bailey, A and Ngwenyama, O (2010) Bridging the generation gap in ICT use: interrogating identity, technology and interactions in community telecenters. Information Technology for Development 16, 6282.
Berridge, C (2017) Active subjects of passive monitoring: responses to a passive monitoring system in low-income independent living. Ageing & Society 37, 537560.
Bowes, A and McColgan, G (2013) Telecare for older people: promoting independence, participation and identity. Research on Ageing 35, 3249.
Broady, T, Chan, A and Caputi, P (2010) Comparison of older and younger adults’ attitudes towards and abilities with computers: implications for training and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology 41, 473485.
Brownsell, S, Bradley, DA, Bragg, R, Catlin, P and Carlier, J (2000) Do community alarm users want telecare? Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 6, 199204.
Burke, P and Stets, J (2009) Identity Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chen, K and Chan, AHS (2013) Use or non-use of gerontechnology – a qualitative study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10, 46454666.
Chen, K and Chan, AHS (2014) Gerontechnology acceptance by elderly Hong Kong Chinese: a Senior Technology Acceptance Model (STAM). Ergonomics 57, 635652.
Claes, V, Devriendt, E, Tournoy, J and Milisen, K (2015) Attitudes and perceptions of adults of 60 years and older towards in-home monitoring of the activities of daily living with contactless sensors: an explorative study. International Journal of Nursing Studies 52, 134148.
Cohen-Mansfield, J, Creedon, M, Malone, T, Kirkpatrick, M, Dutra, L and Herman, R (2005) Electronic memory aids for community-dwelling elderly persons: attitudes, preferences, and potential utilization. Journal of Applied Gerontology 24, 320.
Copolillo, A, Collins, C, Randall, N and Cash, S (2002) The impact of experience and heuristics on everyday decisions to use mobility devices: the need for control in nine African-American older adults. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics 20, 5774.
Coughlin, JF, D’Ambrosio, LA, Reimer, B and Pratt, MR (2007) Older adult perceptions of smart home technologies: implications for research, policy and market innovations in health care. Proceedings of the 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Lyon, France; IEEE Publishing, pp. 18101815.
Courtney, KL, Demiris, G and Hensel, B (2007) Obtrusiveness of information-based assistive technologies as perceived by older adults in residential care facilities: a secondary analysis. Medical Informatics and the Internet in Medicine 32, 241249.
Courtney, K, Demiris, G, Rantz, M and Skubic, M (2008) Needing smart home technologies: the perspectives of older adults in continuing care retirement communities. Informatics in Primary Care 16, 195201.
Coventry, L and Briggs, P (2016) Mobile technology for older adults: Protector, motivator or threat? In Zhou, J and Salvendy, G (eds.) Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population. Design for Aging. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 9754. Cham, Switzerland; Springer Publishing, pp. 424434.
Create Center (2017) Center for Research and Education on Ageing and Technology Enhancement. Available at
Czaja, SJ, Charness, N, Fisk, AD, Hertzog, C, Nair, SN, Rogers, W and Sharit, J (2006) Factors predicting the use of technology: findings from the Center for Research and Education on Ageing and Technology Enhancement (CREATE). Psychology and Ageing 21, 333352.
Davenport, R, Mann, W and Lutz, B (2012) How older adults make decisions regarding smart technology: an ethnographic approach. Assistive Technology 24, 168181.
Davis, FD (1989) Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly 13, 319340.
Demiris, G, Hensel, B, Skubic, M and Rantz, M (2008) Senior residents’ perceived need of and preferences for ‘smart home’ sensor technologies. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care 24, 120124.
Demiris, G, Rantz, M, Aud, M, Marek, K, Tyrer, H, Skubic, M and Hussam, A (2004) Older adults’ attitudes towards and perceptions of ‘smart home’ technologies: a pilot study. Medical Informatics and the Internet in Medicine 29, 8794.
DeSmet, A, Thompson, D, Baranowski, T, Palmeira, A, Verloigne, M and De Bourdeaudhuij, I (2016) Is participatory design associated with the effectiveness of serious digital games for healthy lifestyle promotion? A meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research 18, e94.
Dionigi, R (2002) Leisure and identity management in later life: understanding competitive sport participation among older adults. World Leisure 3, 415.
Dionigi, RA (2015) Stereotypes of aging: their effects on the health of older adults. Journal of Geriatrics 2015, 109.
Dove, E and Astell, AJ (2017) The use of motion-based technology for people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment: a literature review. Journal of Medical Internet Research 19, e3.
Fok, D, Polgar, JM, Shaw, L and Jutai, J (2011) Low vision assistive technology device usage and importance in daily occupations. Work 39, 3748.
Forlizzi, J, DiSalvo, C and Gemperle, F (2004) Assistive robotics and an ecology of elders living independently in their homes. Human–Computer Interaction 19, 2559.
Frennert, S, Eftring, H and Ostlund, B (2013) What older people expect of robots: a mixed-methods approach. In Herrmann, G, Pearson, MJ, Lenz, A, Bremner, P, Spiers, A and Leonards, U (eds.) Social Robotics. ICSR 2013. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 8239. Cham, Switzerland; Springer Publishing, pp. 1929.
Gardner, P (2014) The role of social engagement and identity in community mobility among older adults ageing in place. Disability and Rehabilitation 36, 12491257.
Giesbrecht, EM, Miller, WC and Woodgate, RL (2015) Navigating uncharted territory: a qualitative study of the experience of transitioning to wheelchair use among older adults and their care providers. BMC Geriatrics 15, 110.
Gooberman-Hill, R and Ebrahim, S (2007) Making decisions about simple interventions: older people's use of walking aids. Age and Ageing 36, 569573.
Gramstad, A, Storli, SL and Hamran, T (2014) Exploring the meaning of a new assistive technology device for older individuals. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology 9, 493498.
Greenhalgh, T, Wherton, J, Sugarhood, P, Hinder, S and Procter, R (2013) What matters to older people with assisted living needs? A phenomenological analysis of the use and non-use of telehealth and telecare. Social Science and Medicine 93, 8694.
Hakobyan, L, Lumsden, J and O'Sullivan, D (2015) Participatory design: how to engage older adults in participatory design activities. International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction 7, 7892.
Harré, R (2012) Positioning theory: moral dimensions of socio-cultural psychology. In Valsiner, J (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Culture and and Psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 191206.
Hernández-Encuentra, E, Pousada, M and Gómez-Zúñiga, B (2009) ICT and older people: beyond usability. Educational Gerontology 35, 226245.
Hill, R, Betts, LR and Gardner, SE (2015) Older adults’ experiences and perceptions of digital technology: (dis)empowerment, wellbeing, and inclusion. Computers in Human Behavior 48, 415423.
Hindin, MJ (2007) Role theory. In Ritzer, G (ed.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 39593962.
Hirsch, T, Forlizzi, J, Hyder, E, Goetz, J, Stroback, J and Kurtz, C (2000) The ELDer project: social, emotional and environmental factors in the design of eldercare technologies. Paper presented at the Conference on Universal Usability, November 16–17, Washington, DC, pp. 7279.
Horton, K (2008) Falls in older people: the place of telemonitoring in rehabilitation. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 45, 11831194.
Hurd, LC (1999) ‘We're not old!’: older women's negotiation of aging and oldness. Journal of Aging Studies 13, 419439.
Joddrell, P and Astell, AJ (2016) Studies involving people with dementia and touchscreen technology: a literature review. JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies 3, e10.
Johnson, JL, Davenport, R and Mann, WC (2007) Consumer feedback on smart home applications. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 23, 6072.
Karlsson, E, Axelsson, K, Zingmark, K and Savendtedt, S (2011) The challenge of coming to terms with the use of a new digital assistive device: a case study of two persons with mild dementia. Open Nursing Journal 5, 102110.
Kolb, SM (2012) Grounded theory and the constant comparative method: valid research strategies for educators. Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies 3, 8386.
Londei, ST, Rousseau, J, Ducharme, F, St-Arnaud, A, Meunier, J, Saint-Arnaud, J and Giroux, F (2009) An intelligent video monitoring system for fall detection at home: perceptions of elderly people. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare 15, 383390.
Long, S (2012) Bodies, technologies, and ageing in Japan: thinking about old people and their silver products. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology 27, 119137.
Lund, M and Nygård, L (2003) Incorporating or resisting assistive devices: different approaches to achieving a desired occupational self-image. Occupation, Participation and Health 23, 6775.
Lupton, D and Seymour, W (2000) Technology, selfhood and physical disability. Social Science and Medicine 50, 18511862.
McCreadie, C and Tinker, A (2005) The acceptability of assistive technology to older people. Ageing & Society 25, 91110.
McGrath, C and Astell, A (2016) The benefits and barriers to technology acquisition: understanding the decision-making processes of older adults with age-related vision loss (ARVL). British Journal of Occupational Therapy 80, 123131.
McGrath, C, Ellis, M, Hwang, F, Williams, E, Archer, L, Harney-Levine, S, Wright, D and Astell, A (2016) Exploring the use of participatory methods to understand older adults’ experiences of technology adoption: findings from the Challenging Obstacles and Barriers to Assisted Living Technologies (COBALT) project. Paper presented at the Human–Computer Interaction (HCI) 2016 International Conference, July 20–22, Toronto.
Merkel, S and Kucharski, A (2019) Participatory design in gerontechnology: A systematic literature review. The Gerontologist, 59, e16e25. doi:10.1093/geront/gny034
Molton, IR, Goetz, MC, Jensen, MP and Verrall, A (2012) Evidence for ‘accelerated aging’ in older adults with disability? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60, s239.
Nemmers, TM (2004) The influence of ageism and ageist stereotypes on the elderly. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics 22, 1120.
Neven, L (2010) ‘But obviously not for me’: robots, laboratories and the defiant identity of elder test users. Sociology of Health and Illness 32, 335347.
Nihei, M, Inoue, T and Fujie, M (2008) Psychological influence of wheelchairs on the elderly persons from qualitative research of daily living. Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics 20, 641649.
Normie, L (2011) Technology for ageing in place. Global Ageing Issues and Action 7, 4553.
Nygård, L (2008) The meaning of everyday technology as experienced by people with dementia who live alone. Dementia 7, 481502.
Orellano-Colón, EM, Mann, WC, Rivero, M, Torres, M, Jutai, J, Santiago, A and Varas, N (2016) Hispanic older adult's perceptions of personal, contextual and technology-related barriers for using assistive technology devices. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 3, 676686.
Parette, P and Scherer, M (2004) Assistive technology use and stigma. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities 39, 217226.
Pino, M, Boulay, M, Jouen, F and Rigaud, AS (2015) Are we ready for robots that care for us? Attitudes and opinions of older adults toward socially assistive robots. Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience 7, 115.
Porter, EJ (2005) Wearing and using personal emergency response system buttons. Journal of Gerontological Nursing 31, 2633.
Resnik, L, Allen, S, Isenstadt, D, Wasserman, M and Iezzoni, L (2009) Perspectives on use of mobility aids in a diverse population of seniors: implications for intervention. Disability and Health Journal 2, 7785.
Rolfe, C and Gardner, B (2016) Experiences of hearing loss and views towards interventions to promote uptake of rehabilitation support among UK adults. International Journal of Audiology 55, 666673.
Rowe, JW and Khan, RL (1987) Human aging: usual and successful. Science 237, 143149.
Sanders, C, Rogers, A, Bowen, R, Bower, P, Hirani, S, Cartwright, M, Fitzpatrick, R, Knapp, M, Barlow, J, Hendy, J, Chrysanthaki, T, Bardsley, M and Newman, SP (2012) Exploring barriers to participation and adoption of telehealth and telecare within the Whole System Demonstrator trial: a qualitative study. BMC Health Services Research 12, 112.
Seaborn, K, Pennefather, P and Fels, DI (2016) ‘Learn what we're going through’: attitudes of older powered chair users towards mixed reality games that involve power mobility. Universal Access in the Information Society 15, 699711.
Southall, K, Gagne, JP and Leroux, T (2006) Factors that influence the use of assistive technologies by older adults who have a hearing loss. International Journal of Audiology 45, 252259.
Spafford, M, Rudman, D, Leipert, B, Klinger, L and Huot, S (2010) When self-presentation trumps access: why older adults with low vision go without low-vision services. Journal of Applied Gerontology 29, 579602.
Steele, R, Lo, A, Secombe, C and Wong, YK (2009) Elderly persons’ perception and acceptance of using wireless sensor networks to assist healthcare. International Journal of Medical Informatics 78, 788801.
Steggell, CD, Hooker, K, Bowman, S, Choun, S and Kim, SJ (2010) The role of technology for healthy ageing among Korean and Hispanic women in the United States: a pilot study. Gerontechnology 9, 433449.
Stokke, R (2016) The personal emergency response system as a technology innovation in primary health care services: an integrative review. Journal of Medical Internet Research 18, e187.
Thomas, L, Little, L, Briggs, P, McInnes, L, Jones, E and Nicholson, J (2013) Location tracking: views from the older adult population. Age and Ageing 42, 758763.
United Nations (2017) World Population Ageing 2017 – Highlights. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Available at
Van Hoof, J, Kort, HSM, Rutten, PGS and Duijnstee, MSH (2011) Ageing-in-place with the use of ambient intelligence technology: perspectives of older users. International Journal of Medical Informatics 80, 310331.
Venkatesh, V (2000) Determinants of perceived ease of use: integrating control, intrinsic motivation, and emotion into the Technology Acceptance Model. Information Systems Research 11, 342365.
Venkatesh, V and Davis, FD (2000) A theoretical extension of the technology acceptance model: four longitudinal field studies. Management Science 46, 186204.
Walsh, K and Callan, A (2011) Perceptions, preferences, and acceptance of information and communication technologies in older-adult community care settings in Ireland: a case-study and ranked-care program analysis. Ageing International 36, 102122.
World Health Organization (2010) Definition of an Older or Elderly Person. Available at
World Health Organization (2018) Assistive Devices and Technologies. Available at
Wu, YH, Cristancho-Lacroix, V, Fassert, C, Faucounau, V, de Rotrou, J and Rigaud, AS (2014 a) The attitudes and perceptions of older adults with mild cognitive impairment towards an assistive robot. Journal of Applied Gerontology 20, 115.
Wu, YH, Damnée, S, Kerhervé, H, Ware, C and Rigaud, AS (2015) Bridging the digital divide in older adults: a study from an initiative to inform older adults about new technologies. Clinical Interventions in Ageing 10, 193201.
Wu, YH, Wrobel, J, Cornuet, M, Kerhervé, H, Damnée, S and Rigaud, A (2014 b) Acceptance of an assistive robot in older adults: a mixed-method study of human–robot interaction over a 1-month period in the Living Lab setting. Clinical Interventions in Ageing 9, 801811.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed