Citizenship and old age in a mediatized Denmark: Elderly people’s experiences with mandatory digital communication with the public sector

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The paper presents findings from an ethnographic research project investigating how elderly people (65+) deal with and experience the mediatization of the Danish public sector in their everyday lives. In 2011 the Danish government agreed on an eGovernment strategy implying that 80% of the communication between citizen and public authorities should be digital by 2015. We are thus in 2016 witnessing a situation, where a large group of elderly with poor or no IT-skills are forced to communicate digitally with the public sector. How do the elderly deal with this situation? How does it affect the elderly person’s self-image and experience of citizenship? Often an acquaintance or family member will assist the elderly in communicating digitally, which raises similar questions: How is the relation between the elderly and the family member/acquaintance affected? Is the elderly’s experience of privacy compromised, as private documents regarding health and finances are shared with a third party, ie. the person helping out? This paper combines cultural gerontology (Twigg & Martin 2015; Gilleard & Higgs 2015; Gulette 1997, 2013) with critical mediatization theory (Jansson 2015; Hepp 2012) allowing for a nuanced approach to aspects tied to old age and ageing in relation to media use. This interdisciplinary framework highlights how mediatization processes both confirm and negotiate culturally shaped views on old age and elderly people. Drawing on an ethnographic fieldwork the paper shows how mandatory digital communication with public authorities affects the elderly person’s life, self-image, experience of being a citizen and relation to family members or others assisting with the communication.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventENAS : European Network for Ageing Studies - Graz, Austria
Duration: 27. Apr 201730. Apr 2017


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