Contrasting ageism in research on older adults and digital technologies: A methodological reflection

Garavaglia, Emma and Caliandro, Alessandro and Melis, Giulia and Sala, Emanuela and Zaccaria, Daniele (2023) Contrasting ageism in research on older adults and digital technologies: A methodological reflection. In: Rosales, A. and Fernández-Ardèvol, M. and Svensson, J., (eds.) Digital ageism: How it operates and approaches to tackling it. Routledge, London, pp. 248-265. ISBN 9781003323686

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Studies that affirm to reject stereotypical representations of older digital technology users often tend to (involuntarily) reproduce and reinforce ageism against older adults – e.g., by excluding some groups of participants who, due to their age, are not considered technologically savvy enough to take part in the study. The present chapter aims to kick-start a discussion about the risks of ageism against older adults in social science research practice on ageing and digital technologies – what we call “methodological ageism” – drawing upon three case studies, respectively, employing digital methods, social experimentation and online methods to explore the relationship between older adults and digital media in Italy. Despite their diversity in terms of methods employed, the three case studies allow drawing some overarching methodological guidelines to avoid “methodological ageism” in social research, i.e., (1) discussing researchers' own conception and images of age – before starting the research and while conducting it; (2) adopting a participatory approach in each phase of the research to take into account researchers and participants' age and digital media cultures and (3) adopting a flexible research design to adapt to participants' different backgrounds in terms of ICT use practices.

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