Digital technologies and the shaping of aging futures: A critical research agenda

Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2020

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In many Western nations, optimism is pinned on digital technologies as the solution to challenges posed by aging populations, from encouraging individuals to embrace active, risk-averse lifestyles to permitting more people to age at home rather than in care facilities. However, a number of assumptions that underlie this optimism require investigation. Beginning from the premise that both ‘aging’ and ‘technology’ are socially produced, critical aging researchers ask how expectations and experiences of aging are shaped in and through digital technologies. Drawing from work on two collaborative projects, I outline an agenda for research that explores the ways in which digital and ‘smart’ technologies integrate population surveillance, public policies (such as ‘active aging’ and ‘aging in place’) and consumer-directed health products into ‘sociotechnical imaginaries’ of aging futures.

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Barbara L. Marshall is Professor of Sociology at Trent University, and recipient of Trent’s Distinguished Research Award.  She teaches, researches and writes in the areas of gender, sexuality, aging and technologies, often with her colleague Stephen Katz. She is currently involved in two collaborative research projects on aging and technology.  “Digital Culture and Quantified Aging” explores ways that emerging digital technologies quantify, track and reshape measures of age.  “Being Connected @Home” (in collaboration with the European More Years Better Lives initiative) investigates contemporary experiences of later life at the intersection of digital infrastructures, place and the experience of ‘being connected’.