Digital Engagement of Older Adults: Scoping Review

Abraham Kebede, Lise-Lotte Ozolins, Hanna Holst, Kathleen Galvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital technologies facilitate everyday life, social connectedness, aging at home, well-being, and dignified care. However, older adults are disproportionately excluded from these benefits. Equal digital opportunities, access, and meaningful engagement require an understanding of older adults’ experience across different stages of the technological engagement life cycle from nonuse and initial adoption to sustained use, factors influencing their decisions, and how the experience changes over time.

Our objectives were to identify the extent and breadth of existing literature on older adults’ perspective on digital engagement and summarize the barriers to and facilitators for technological nonuse, initial adoption, and sustained digital technology engagement.

We used the Arksey and O’Malley framework for the scoping review process. We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science, and ACM digital library for primary studies published between 2005 and 2021. The inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed based on the Joanna Briggs Institute (participants, content, and context) framework. Studies that investigated the digital engagement experience as well as barriers to and facilitators of older adults’ digital technology engagement were included. The characteristics of the study, types of digital technology, and digital engagement levels were analyzed descriptively. Content analysis was used to generate tentative elements using a congruent theme, and barriers and facilitators were mapped over the capability, opportunity, and motivation behavior change model (COM-B) and the theoretical domain framework. The findings were reported in accordance with the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews).

In total, 96 publications were eligible for the final charting and synthesis. Most of the studies were published over the past 5 years, investigated the initial adoption stage of digital engagement, and focused on everyday technologies. The most cited barriers and facilitators across the engagement stages from each COM-B component were capability (eg, physical and psychological changes and lack of skill), opportunity (eg, technological features, environmental context, and resources), and motivation (eg, optimism from perceived usefulness and beliefs about capability).

The COM-B model and theoretical domain framework provide a guide for identifying multiple and intertwined barriers and facilitators at each stage of digital engagement. There are limited studies looking into the whole spectrum of older adults’ digital technology experience; in particular, studies on technological nonuse and sustained use stages are rare. Future research and practice should focus on tailored interventions accounting for the barriers to older adults’ digital engagement and addressing capabilities, motivation, and opportunities; affordable, usable, and useful digital technologies, which address the changes and capability requirements of older adults and are cocreated with a value framework; and lifelong learning and empowerment to develop older adults’ knowledge and skills to cope with digital technology development.

International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID):
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere40192
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number12
Early online date7 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant 813928.

Funding Information:
This project received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant 813928.

Publisher Copyright:
© Abraham Sahilemichael Kebede, Lise-Lotte Ozolins, Hanna Holst, Kathleen Galvin. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 07.12.2022. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


  • digital divide
  • digital engagement
  • older adults
  • older people
  • sustained engagement
  • technological nonuse
  • technology acceptance


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