Nav: Home

Ben-Gurion University study examines the 'gray divide' regarding mobile phone use

May 25, 2016

BEER-SHEVA, Israel...May 25, 2016 - While close to 99 percent of seniors aged 65 and older in the United States and Europe use mobile phones, there appears to be a "gray divide" in how seniors use information and communication technology, according to a Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) study.

In "The Hierarchy of Mobile Phone Incorporation Among Older Users" published in Mobile Media & Communication, BGU Professor Galit Nimrod concludes that the majority of older mobile phone users "stagnate in a phase of limited use. Only a minority--typically younger, higher income and more educated seniors--access a broader range of functions. Seniors who still work to some extent also seem to make greater use of mobile phone functions.

The study, based on a survey of 1,039 Internet users over 60, delineates different levels of mobile phone incorporation. The vast majority used the phone to contact family and friends, and participants indicated that they used between one and 19 functions of their mobile phones. The most prominent uses were voice calls (87 percent) and text messages (85 percent). A fewer number took photographs (55 percent) and used alarms, calendars and reminders (37 percent). A quarter of the survey respondents reported sending images or leaving voice messages. Less than a fifth played games, used instant messaging or listened to music or podcasts.

"Acquiring mobile literacy is typically a gradual process that starts with simple usages and continues with more complex ones," says Prof. Nimrod, of BGU's Department of Communication Studies and the Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging.

Older Mobil Phone Users Can Benefit Psychologically, Physically and Practically

Research suggests mobile phones offer seniors extensive psychological, physical and practical benefits. "They help older users stay connected with children, grandchildren and friends, and provide new forms of leisure, entertainment and mental exercise that may improve emotional and cognitive well-being," says Prof. Nimrod.

Healthcare services can also use mobile phones for health management to communicate with patients, monitor health status and deliver health promotion interventions. Seniors can take advantage of mobile phones for health maintenance and managing chronic disease. Mobile phones also function as navigators and memory aids that can help preserve independence.

Several obstacles prevent seniors from reaping the full rewards of mobile phone technology. "Most seniors need help with their new digital devices, and are fearful and anxious when they try to figure them out themselves," says Prof. Nimrod. "They generally have problems with displays, menus and operating functions that don't consider their special needs." Skeptical attitudes, indifference, a perceived lack of usefulness, and the cost of mobile phones and services also hinder seniors from embracing them.

"While tutorial training and peer support, specially-designed senior phones and software add-ons are available, older adults still face formidable impediments and often find themselves excluded from cutting-edge technology user circles," he says. "This problem, commonly called the age or gray divide, is reflected in seniors' use of information and communication technology in general and of mobile phones in particular."

Prof. Nimrod recommends paying greater attention to enhancing seniors' mobile literacy and narrowing the age divide so that older individuals can take advantage of applications that can contribute to successful aging and overall well-being.

The study was based on a major cross-European audience research project conducted in the context of EU COST Action IS0906. Data was collected online in early 2013 in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Poland, and Portugal.
G. Nimrod, 2016. The hierarchy of mobile phone incorporation among older users (2016-05)

DOI: 10.1177/2050157915617336

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU, which is headquartered in Manhattan, has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Related Mobile Phones Articles:

Graphene mobile innovation wows at the GSMA Mobile World Congress
The Graphene Experience Zone proved a show highlight to many at the 2017 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC).
Experience graphene mobile innovation at the GSMA Mobile World Congress
Graphene is back at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 with the Graphene Experience Zone.
Why some drivers slow down when using mobile phones: QUT research
With mobile phone distracted driving a growing road safety issue, a QUT study reveals why some drivers slow down when using a mobile phone but others don't.
Who gets most distracted by cell phones?
Researchers have verified that the mere presence of a cell phone or smartphone can adversely affect our cognitive performance, particularly among infrequent internet users.
20 percent of US households think landline phones are an important telecom choice
The predicted death of the household landline telephone in the United States may be premature, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
New digital antenna could revolutionize the future of mobile phones
Aalto University's Radio Science and Engineering researchers have developed a method that allows antennas to make the shift from the analogue to the digital world.
Gold from old phones is real prospect thanks to chemical advance
Vast quantities of gold could be salvaged from old mobile phones using a simple chemical method, a study shows.
The rise of OLED displays could lead to shatterproof phones
These days, it seems like gadgets are constantly improving, and now the next big development may be organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs.
Phones at the dinner table: U-M study explores attitudes
Checking email for work. Posting a photo to Facebook. Texting the kids to come downstairs.
Why are some people more attached to their phones than others?
Some people frequently check and re-check their mobile phones. Once this impulse is triggered, it may be more a question of not being able to leave the device alone than actually hoping to gain some reward from it.

Related Mobile Phones Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...