How digital media polarizes generations

Let me introduce myself, my name is Isabel and I am 20 years old. I have used the internet and on that digital media my whole life and I do not know a life without it. Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because it is important to know from the start what generation I belong to. This will help you to understand my point of view.  For me the internet has always been the place to visit when I want to interact with people who are not in my direct presence, to seek entertainment (games, films, music, etc.). In other words I do not know a world without it. 

Last year I started to work for elderly in their homes. I helped them with simple house tasks they could not handle themselves anymore. I help 3 different elderly adults among which is Dien. Dien is 80 years old and still lives on her own. She has to handle all of her administration her self, nothing rather strange right? However one problem I started noticing; the world we life in today is completely focused on digitalization. We do not fill in our insurance or bank information administration manually on paper anymore, no we do this on the computer. The computer sometimes even has half of the information already filled in. With two clicks your done. However, what if you do not understand the computer or the smartphone and everything it comes with? How do you then still send all your information to the insurance company on time? Or how do you send your grandchildren a text via whatsapp?  

This is a problem Dien and many other elderly adults have to put up with on the daily. Everything we as a modern society do or plan has a phone or computer involved. The result of this problem is that these elderly people can not keep up with our contemporary society and slowly but surely start to distance themselves from our contemporary society. This digital divide starts to emerge. 

This distancing, and you could say exclusion, was even more evident during the peek of the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, phisical interaction was limited so people turned more and more to their phones to still be in touch with their friends, family and co-workers. The internet turned out to be more useful then ever, but not for everyone. For some the internet became their enemy. The digital divide is a fact and became more obvious during this time. We all vividly remember the time we (in the Netherlands) needed to show our QR code on our phones everywhere we went. To obtain this QR code you had to have a DigiD, an online passport you could say. To even create an account for this DigiD was already a nightmare for many elderly adults let alone creating this QR code on their phones. This is a clear example of how difficult it is for those people to keep up with our highly digitalized society. A initiative by students from Technova in Ede was to help elderly with installing the digiD app and also creating a account and a QR code.

The digital divide needs to be solved and there have been many initiatives to do so. An other good example is the initiative by ‘Grijs en Wijs.’ A Dutch event that took place in 2019 where elderly people could go to to get assistance with understanding the in’s and out’s of the mobile phone and the internet. With this initiative seniors do not only get help, they also get the feeling that they are not alone. This events also creates a sense of community. 


  • Seifert, A., Cotten, S. R., & Xie, B. (2021). A Double Burden of Exclusion? Digital and Social Exclusion of Older Adults in Times of COVID-19. The journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 76(3), e99–e103.
  •   Lai, J., & Widmar, N. O. (2021). Revisiting the Digital Divide in the COVID‐19 Era. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 43(1), 458–464.