Ageism in the Discourse and Practice of Designing Digital Technology for Older Persons: A Scoping Review

Ittay Mannheim, Eveline J.M. Wouters, Hanna Köttl, Leonieke C. van Boekel, Rens Brankaert, Yvonne van Zaalen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Involving older persons in the design process of digital technology (DT) promotes the development of technologies that are appealing, beneficial, and used. However, negative discourse on aging and ageism are potential underlying factors that could influence which and how DTs are designed and how older persons are involved in the design process. This scoping review investigates the explicit and implicit manifestations of ageism in the design process of DT. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Seven databases were screened for studies reporting on the design of DT with older persons between January 2015 and January 2020. Data regarding study and DT characteristics, discourse about older persons, and their involvement in the design process were extracted, coded, and analyzed using critical discourse analysis. RESULTS: Sixty articles met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Various forms of exclusion of older persons from the design process were identified, such as no or low involvement, upper-age limits, and sample biases toward relatively "active," healthy and "tech-savvy" older persons. Critical discourse analysis revealed the use of outdated language, stereotypical categorizations, and/or design decisions based on ageism in 71.7% of the studies. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: A discrepancy was found between an "ideal" discourse regarding the involvement of older persons throughout the design process and actual practice. Manifestations of ageism, errors, and biases of designing DT with older persons are discussed. This article calls for more authentic inclusion of older persons and higher awareness toward the implications of ageism in the design process of DT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1188-1200
Number of pages13
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number7
StatePublished - 24 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.


  • Ageism
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Digital technology
  • Participatory design
  • User-centered design


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