The demographic time bomb means that older people will become a major part of tomorrow's society. This has become an increasingly pressing issue for older people and government policy alike. ONS (2009) statistics suggest that past retirement age, the sense of quality of life (QoL) experienced by older people begins to decrease, with the fastest decline occurring after the age of 70. This research therefore began by investigating how ICT could be implicated in the social life of the older person and thus improve their QoL. Literature reviews of the field of older people's involvement with ICT indicated that there was very little research between the more general studies of ICT involvement (which include far more than the purely social aspects) and the very specific (which involve examining the social impact of just one piece of technology). This study therefore aimed to fill the gap between the two extremes. It also aimed to generate theory in an under-theorised area. The study began with a focus group and interviews asking questions around how people thought social life had changed with the advent of new technologies, how they experienced the technology, and how things could be improved in the future. The study was qualitative in nature and adopted a grounded theory approach in order to inductively generate theory. The study of the lived experience of ICT also contributed to a phenomenological approach. Comparative analysis of transcripts obtained in Phase One (Year One) enabled a set of Grounded Theory Categories to be created which accounted for what was happening in the data. A core category of identity was identified which influenced subsequent data collection in Phase Two (Year Two). Phase Two participants were then involved in more focused interviews around identity concepts. Further analysis in Year Two enabled a Schema of Subject Positions to be created concerning (digital) identities which accounted for all of the participants in the study and the ways in which they viewed and interacted with technology. The Categories were also subsumed within a Grounded Theory Model involving a tripartite identity schema aligned with Giddens theory of the reflexive project of the self. Findings suggest that participants are implicated in methods of identity involvement which can be playful or pragmatic; can be viewed in moral, immoral and amoral ways (leading to ideas of the authentic and the inauthentic); and can represent the individual or explore new identities. Identity construction can ultimately be implicated positively with the use of ICT, and may lead to a virtuous cycle of ICT usage which can improve quality of life by affirming better self-views or enabling the testing of new views of selfhood. Positive technology identities can be offered as identity role models for other older people to follow.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.