Technology has become an essential part of daily living, everything and anything from how we communicate, to how we pay our bills, to how we travel has been influenced by technology. Long gone are the days of paying bills at the post office, rather post offices hardly exist anymore. With SMS messaging messages can be sent across the world in seconds. Bills can be paid with a few taps on an Iphone and the transaction of money is just a presentation of a plastic card.
Therefore, to be a functioning member of society being adaptable to the ever-developing technology is a must. However, this continued technological development is occurring simultaneously with the aging New Zealand population. This simultaneous concurrence both provides opportunities for technology to help the elderly but also can inhibit the functioning of the elderly. Czaja et al. (2006) show that the elderly tends to be less able adapt new technologies than their younger counterparts. So, programmes both in New Zealand and around the world have been set up to lessen the age-related barriers in using technology.
An example is Stepping Up, which is a Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa programme that is a free community-based digital literacy programme that assists adults to build their technology skills to enable technological independence member of society (Stepping Up NZ, 2009). Another programme is SeniorNet which is more target specific to the elderly population (65+) and is also a training network based in the community. SeniorNet supports and encourages elderly people to utilize technology in their daily lives through providing a digital training programme.
The benefits for the elderly population to become technologically minded include but not limited to facilitating better interpersonal relationships, better self-rated health, fewer chronic illnesses, fewer depressive symptoms and an overall higher subjective well-being (Chopik, 2016). For which is significantly supportive of the movement towards including technology into the senior population daily lives however, there are disadvantages. The elderly is deemed to be highly susceptible to fraudulent internet schemes due to their fragility using new media/technology (Carlson, 2006). In providing the opportunity for the elderly population to access technology increases the possibility of one of societys most vunerable demographic to fall victim to fraudulent internet targeting schemes (Carlson, 2006). Additionally, whilst technology streamlines processes such as bill paying (paying over the internet instead of in the post office) it can potentially decrease social interactions. Social interactions are vital to the elderly populations overall health and wellbeing.
Bronfenbrenner ecological system theory incorporated the idea of several major levels of influential environmental systems nested within one another reflecting an individuals development (Santrock, 2016). The theory identifies five environmental systems, four of which will be examined in relation to the SeniorNet case study.
The inner most layer of the nested systems is the microsystem. The microsystem is the context or setting which the individual exists within and where most of their social interactions occur. The microsystem includes the pattern of activities, roles, relationships, and interpersonal interactions experienced by a developing person. This typically encompasses an individuals family, peers, teachers, mentors, work, friends, etc. A significant microsystem setting for Grace is family. In the case study it is detailed that Grace is reasonably recently widowed and has alluded to experiencing some ramifications following Eriks passing. However, in response to Erik passing Graces granddaughter Anna moved in with Grace to assist with the transition. It is articulated that Grace and Anna have a very close relationship therefore being easily classifiable as a microsystem. Another microsystem in the case study is the SeniorNet class, although being a considerably newer microsystem for Grace it still a microsystem. Within the class there are direct social interactions, and Grace being a student is an active recipient of experiences occurring in the setting. Grace assists in constructing the setting through being a student learning from Bill (SeniorNet employee) and a classmate to fellow student Tui.
The next innermost system is the mesosystem for which is comprised of the connections between two or more microsystems. Therefore, pattern of interaction between Grace and her family (particularly Anna) would be an example of a microsystem, the SeniorNet classroom would be another and the mesosystem would be the connection between these two systems. So, the mesosystem for the two microsystems given is the need to connect and stay connected with her family. With Anna moving away for her OE it essentially inhibits the most direct means of interaction and without SeniorNet classes would almost entirely inhibit any interaction. Therefore, Graces family microsystem relies on Graces SeniorNet microsystem and Graces SeniorNet microsystem would never have existed if it wasnt for the family microsystem. It is the interaction between the two microsystems that forms the mesosystem.
The exosystem is the third layer of the ecological systems and it is the linkage between a social setting for which the individual does not have any influence on or an active role in. The setting being one which the individual does not usually involve the developing person but however, does include events for which influence processes within the immediate setting of the individual. The entire SeniorNet organisation is an example of an exosystem for Grace. The SeniorNet organisation in New Zealand has 8 regions stretching across the country delivering technology assistance to people of ages 50+. Therefore, Graces participation in her small class learning basic word processing is very minute in the grand scheme of the organisation. Grace does not have any significant influence in the organisation nor does she take an active role in running the organisation.
Finally, the macrosystem which includes the culture which an individual lives in, therefore referring to the patterns of ideology and social institutions. These can determine social, economic, political, and legal systems and impact the interactions within all levels of the Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory. In considering how the macrosystem applies to the case study a cross-cultural evaluation is required. Grace come from the Baby-boomer generation and comparing her behavioural patterns and beliefs regarding technology vastly differ to that of Anna who is from the Millennial generation. Technology is common place for Anna in her daily life however for Grace it is a foreign skill, and as highlighted in the background section the older generations tend to be slower at adapting to modern technological advances.
BaltesAnother means of analysing development in context is through looking through a life-span perspective. In the case study, development within a context holds great influence on the development of Grace. Context being exerted through three types of influences: normative age-graded influences, normative history-graded influences, and non-normative life events (Santrock, 2016).
Normative age-graded influenced are biological and/or environmental influences that are similar for individual of a chronological age group (Santrock, 2016). At Graces age it is not unreasonable or non-normative to become widowed. Eriks passing whilst most likely saddening it is more common place for women to outlive men. Women in New Zealand are expected to live 5.3 years longer than their male counterparts (Statistics NZ, 2000) and that women tend to marry men 2-3 years older than themselves, causing just over one-third of women aged 65+ in New Zealand are widowed. So, it is reasonable to assume the normative nature of Eriks passing.
Normative history-graded influences are common to a group of people from a particular generation because of history associated changing contexts (Santrock, 2016). Each generation is individualised because of its exposure to its own unique segment of history at that period of development. So, whilst a society might have considerable cultural similarity among its members of society the differences in developmental exposure influences the development of each generation. Grace as a member of the silent generation entered and left childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age at similar chronological age to Anna but experienced different economic, social, and political events. The integration of technology is a normative history-graded influences as Grace didnt growth up with the same technology that Anna has. Anna likely does not know a world without mobile telecommunication or computers, whereas, for Grace this is a foreign and significant life event. Grace had to learn how to use a computer through SeniorNet programmes whereas, it is almost innate for Anna. This being because of the different historical influences place on both Grace and Anna in their formative years.
Non-normative life events are occurrences that have a significant influence on an individuals life but is not history-graded or age-graded and therefore is unusual (Santrock, 2016). For Grace the attendance of technology classes or classes in general specifically at her age is atypical. Grace essentially is receiving an education in the practical application and integration of technology into daily life as modern society resolves around many contemporary technology-based functions. However, as a 78-year-old being a student in a class is not common place nor has it ever been in history. Education is viewed as an activity for the youth to engage in not the elderly.
Carlson, E. L. (2006). Phishing for elderly victims: as the elderly migrate to the Internet fraudulent schemes targeting them follow. Elder LJ, 14, 423.
Chopik, W. J. (2016). The benefits of social technology use among older adults are mediated by reduced loneliness. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(9), 551-556.
Czaja, S. J., Charness, N., Fisk, A. D., Hertzog, C., Nair, S. N., Rogers, W. A., & Sharit, J. (2006). Factors predicting the use of technology: Findings from the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE). Psychology and Aging, 21(2), 333.
Geraedts, H. A., Zijlstra, W., Zhang, W., Bulstra, S., & Stevens, M. (2014). Adherence to and effectiveness of an individually tailored home-based exercise program for frail older adults, driven by mobility monitoring: design of a prospective cohort study. BMC public health, 14(1), 570.
Santrock, J. W. (2016). Essentials of life-span development. (4th ed). NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
SeniorNet. (2011). Helping you with technology for use in your everyday life. Retrieved from New Zealand, (2000). Population ageing in New Zealand article. Retrieved from
Stepping Up NZ. (2009). About Stepping Up. Retrieved from HYPERLINK ” h stepping-up/