Keywords: technology access, human right, older adults, digital determinants of health, digital inclusion
Digital technology can help to increase the health, autonomy, and well-being of older adults by enhancing information access and social connectedness. However, digital exclusion can increase social and economic disparities and should be seen as a determinant of health outcomes. A community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) project was conducted to identify and explore opportunities for community-based supports and services to enable digital inclusion and improve the health and wellbeing of older adults. The CBPAR study of information and referral services for older adults service was undertaken in British Columbia (BC), Canada between April - August 2020 in partnership with 411 Seniors Centre Society. Semi-structured individual and group interviews were conducted with 28 participants involving paid staff (89%), volunteers (7%) and policy makers (4%) who worked in the area of older adult community services. To support the interpretation and analysis of the interviews and participant observations, detailed field notes were produced and thematically analyzed as part of the overall dataset. Reflexive thematic analysis revealed that the key barriers to technology access are structural in nature and are associated with both ageism and poverty. The analysis revealed how digital service challenges facing older people were best understood according to issues of human-rights; intersectionality; and availability and accessibility of assets. To illuminate the digital determinants of health as supported by the need for intersectional service provision, more research is required for examining the unique social categories that individuals hold and how these shape diverse social service needs in the realm of technology access.