Published: May 2015
Author(s): Chris Gileard, Ian Rees Jones, Paul Higgs

Sociological Research Online 20(2) pp 1-13

In recent decades changes in social connectivity have become key features in the changing contexts of later life. Communities of propinquity no longer seem to be as determining of social relationships as they once were. Mobile cell phone technology and the Internet have redefined what it means to ‘keep in touch’. Some authors have argued that these new forms of connectivity have created a ‘digital divide’ between those who have become active adopters of these technologies and those who have not. Using data from the British General Household Survey (GHS), we examined trends in mobile phone ownership amongst people over fifty during the period 2000 - 2009. Compared with the pace of change in ownership of other household technologies such as personal computers, dishwashers, fridge freezers and microwave ovens, the take up of mobile phones amongst those aged 50 and over has followed a much sharper rise. Based upon these findings, we suggest a more sceptical stance towards the ICT ‘generational divide’ which needs more detailed interrogation. Future research should consider the possibility that the divide may be a more short lived phenomenon, as successive cohorts of people aged fifty and over are becoming active participants in individualised networked communities.

Mobile Cell Phones, Digital Divide, Generations, over Fifties, General Household Survey