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The global demographic transformation of the ageing population means that the ageing debate is increasingly recognised as a common issue around the world. Given this context, care for older people has become increasingly important, because of growing numbers of older people who live with disability, as well as recent social and cultural changes, having a major impact on demand for health and social care services.

Another important aspect of globalization is the growth of modern communication technologies, with electronic forms of information crossing national borders more easily and quickly than ever before. We are living in a global information society. For Castells (2000), ‘knowledge and information are critical elements’ of the new society, because the modern production process is based on knowledge and the processing of information. Castells observes that the information technology revolution is ‘at least as major an historical event as was the eighteenth-century industrial revolution’, with the ‘information society’ produced by information technology, and structured by knowledge-based information, likened to the way ‘industrial society is dominated by the manufacturing industry’ (Holliday, 2004).

Information technologies provide people across the world with the opportunity to access and share information, and reap the benefits of this. However, as Kennett (2001) discusses, ‘global processes are complex and contradictory. While opening up opportunities for some countries and people, others have been marginalized and excluded from the benefits of the information age’. As Olphert, Damodaran and May (2005) report, the fact is that in many countries, older people are more likely to be ‘digitally excluded’ than the younger population. This picture highlights Phillipson’s (2003) suggestion: the importance of ‘“age-sensitive” globalization’ which has an awareness of, and brings an effective challenge to, new forms of inequality and exclusion.

A major focus of digital inclusion is not only the technology itself, but also social inclusion and the cultural practices of human beings; enabling excluded groups and individuals to ‘use’ technologies and to ‘access’ information is a primary concern. Technological advances in themselves cannot improve older people’s lives, but older people’s quality of life can be improved by the ‘use’ of those technologies – especially when coupled with the support of other human beings.

As Dannefer et al. (2008) observe, caring is not only ‘a matter of solicitous, competently delivered and even personally engaging service delivery’, but something which ‘requires creating conditions that allow each to engage her human potentials by participating in world-construction, in the ongoing reconstitution of self and society in everyday life’. From this perspective, the process of digital inclusion, which enables older people to participate in the digital world, itself is a form of ‘care’, integrating technologies and human beings in the era of globalization.

References

Castells, M. (2000) The rise of the network society (2nd ed.), Oxford: Blackwell publishers.

Dannefer, D., Stein, P., Siders, R. and Patterson, R. S. (2008) ‘Is that all there is? The concept of care and the dialectic of critique’, Journal of Aging Studies, 22, pp.101-108.

Holliday, I. (2004) ‘Information society, e-governance and the policy process’, in Kennett, P. (ed.) A handbook of comparative social policy (pp. 388-404), Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Kennett, P. (2001) Comparative social policy: Theory and research, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Olphert, C. W., Damodaran, L. and May, A. J. (2005) ‘Towards digital inclusion – engaging older people in the “digital world”’, paper presented at the Accessible Design in the Digital World Conference, Dundee, Scotland, 23-25 August,
<http://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/ewic_ad05_s7paper1.pdf>.

Phillipson, C. (2003) ‘Globalisation and the future of ageing: Developing a critical gerontology’, Sociological Research Online, 8 (4),   <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/8/4/phillipson.html>.