Discussion Papers

Norbert Kordey

Nutzung der Telekommunikation durch ältere Menschen - Qualitative Studie in ausgewählten Lebenslagen und sozialen Situationen
Nr. 117 / September 1993


With the qualitative analysis of the use and the application possibilities of telecommunications by the elderly, a deepened understanding of the user behaviour and the application possibilities of telecommunications in the everyday life of the elderly could be obtained.

The main part of the paper consists of three sections: The practical use of the telephone by the elderly, the development of behaviour and demand types as well as the demands of the elderly on terminal equipment and services of telecommunications. 53 indepth interviews and 7 group discussions were the basis of this qualitative study generating 6 different behaviour and 4 demand types. Selected case studies of particular life situations inform about the individuals personal communications network including telephone contacts. The elderly gave detailed information about existing general as well as age-specific "telecommunications services" and about the functionality of terminal equipment.

Telecommunications plays a decisive role in the maintenance of communications relationships. Its importance increases with age inspite of reduced contact networks. Especially the integration function of the telephone, the mediation of a "psychological neighbourhood", is of great importance for the elderly. This is complemented by the importance of the "security function" of the telephone, the alarming system or the house-tele-service which is tested in a pilot project.

The acceptance of the telephone is high among the senior citizens asked. However generally the elderly are still insufficiently informed about the offer of new services, terminal equipment and tariff settlements. The latter is rather striking because the cost sensitivity of the elderly is relatively high. Considering the range of telecommunications used by the elderly (i.e. telephone for deaf people, vitaphone, TeleRing, pastoral advice service or the alarming system), it becomes obvious that they are at the top of the private households user potential for telecommunications.

The design and handling of communications technology should be improved. Future communications technology needs to be orientated towards a "transgenerational design". Especially those people who are no longer working should be enabled to gain the technical competence which is indispensible for the use of communications equipment. The efficieny of an interactive communications technology increases with the number of people using it. The requirement on the development of new "techniques for communication" is to make them available for all social groups. The exclusion of certain sections of the population such as the elderly should be prevented by creative communication solutions.

Only German language version available.

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