Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Digitalised Welfare: Access, Usage, and Outcomes Among Older Adults

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Abstract:  The slogan “digital first” has become a buzzword for public organisational development at the local, regional, and national levels in Sweden. The slogan alludes to the idea that providing information to and communication with citizens should take place primarily through digital channels. This idea is also popular in other parts of the digitalised world. Obviously, digital solutions have the potential to become pedagogical, reliable, and effective interfaces for governmental interaction with citizens. However, the extent to which they are actually accessible, brought to use, and valued among older adult users (more than 65 years of age) has not attracted much research interest. Drawing on national survey data, collected in November–December 2020, on Swedish citizens (aged 65 to 90 years), this article will start to compensate for this deficit. First, it analyses the extent to which citizens have physical access to required devices and how access is related to material, discursive, and social resources. Second, it analyses resources and usage of important platforms for public services for older adults: the Pensions Agency, health care, e-pharmacy, the Social Insurance Agency, and the Tax Agency. Finally, the article examines outcomes: feelings and attitudes towards experiences of encountering a digitalising society. The article demonstrates how all three levels of divides—access, usage, and outcomes—are clearly related to older adults’ access to material, discursive, and social resources, as well as to age and pre-retirement experience with computers. It is comparatively younger individuals with longer formal education and at least average incomes and social networks who benefit the most from digitalised public services.

Keywords:  Digital First; digital inclusion; digitalisation; digitalised public services; older adults; Sweden



© Tobias Olsson, Dino Viscovi. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.