Capitalizing and Compensating: Older Adults’ Religious and Spiritual Uses of Technology

Samantha L.C. Kang, Camille G Endacott, Gabrielle G Gonzales, Vern L Bengtson


This study explores how older adults use information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their spiritual and religious lives. How widespread is their use? What kinds of ICTS do they use and for what reasons? What impact do they have on their religious and spiritual lives? We explored these questions by collecting interviews with 90 older adults, average age 77, from six major Judeo-Christian faith traditions. The sample was developed from nominations by pastors, priests, and rabbis in three southern California cities. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and analyzed through abductive analysis. Many older adults in our sample reported using ICTs to assist their devotional lives—nine in ten of our participants provided examples, thus dispelling technology as merely a tool for the young to incorporate into their religious lives. An unexpected finding of the research was the wide variety of ICT usage mentioned by these elderly participants —over 15 distinct ones were mentioned.  The reasons for using ICTs fell into two primary categories: compensating for age related changes and capitalizing on unique opportunities for growth in later life. The results demonstrate support for Carstensen’s Socio-Emotional Selectivity Theory and have implications for practitioners working with older adults, such as social workers and clergy, as well as for marketers in industry.  


religion; spirituality; information communication technologies; gerotechnology; aging

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