Lifelong participation through digital technology

15 Feb 2017

Due to increases in life expectancy we are now facing what could be the longest ever retirement period in history. With this welcome trend comes new challenges, such as the need to meet increased demand for health and aged care services at a time when the ratio of working aged people to retired people is declining. Further disruption, in the form of exponential developments in digital technology, could exacerbate these challenges, since the automation of work is likely to push less digitally literate older workers into early retirement.

But digital technology is not simply an exogenous factor that we are disrupted by. As has always been the case, our ability to flourish into the future will derive from the way in which we harness technology to overcome our challenges and create new opportunities. This report seeks to convey this potential, capturing insights from international experts and high-level representatives from across Australian society to understand how the capacity and energy of older Australians can be enabled by digital technology.

Such a broad question requires consideration of a multiplicity of factors and viewpoints; hence we sought a range of perspectives for this research. Thirty-eight interviews were carried out, with representatives from all levels of government, a range of peak bodies, aged and health care providers, seniors’ advocates, researchers and education, recreation, finance, transport and technology providers. The interviews explored three key questions:

1. How might greater reliance on digital technology negatively affect social and economic participation in later life?
2. What are the key opportunities that digital technology might create when it comes to supporting social and economic participation in later life?
3. What actions and/or resources are needed to ensure that the risks are minimised and the opportunities can be realised?

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