Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 313–326 | Cite as

Ethical frontiers of ICT and older users: cultural, pragmatic and ethical issues

  • Athena McLeanEmail author
Original Paper


The reality of an ageing Europe has called attention to the importance of e-inclusion for a growing population of senior citizens. For some, this may mean closing the digital divide by providing access and support to technologies that increase citizen participation; for others, e-inclusion means access to assistive technologies to facilitate and extend their living independently. These initiatives address a social need and provide economic opportunities for European industry. While undoubtedly desirable, and supported by European Union initiatives, several cultural assumptions or issues related to the initiatives could benefit from fuller examination, as could their practical and ethical implications. This paper begins to consider these theoretical and practical concerns. The first part of the paper examines cultural issues and assumptions relevant to adopting e-technologies, and the ethical principles applied to them. These include (1) the persistence of ageism, even in e-inclusion; (2) different approaches to, and implications of independent living; and (3) the values associated with different ethical principles, given their implications for accountability to older users. The paper then discusses practical issues and ethical concerns that have been raised by the use of smart home and monitoring technologies with older persons. Understanding these assumptions and their implications will allow for more informed choices in promoting ethical application of e-solutions for older persons.


E-inclusion Senior citizens Ethics Ageism Cultural assumptions Views on independent living Western views of ethics Smart home and monitoring technologies 



I thank Emilio Mordini for inviting me to present an earlier version of this paper at Socio-Anthropological Workshop on ICT and Ageing, June 2–3, 208, Brussels, for the SENIOR (Social, Ethical, and Privacy Needs in ICT for Older People) Project. I appreciate the opportunity to have conducted ethnographic research with the TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) Centre in Ireland. I thank Eamon O’Shea, Irish Centre for Social Geronotology, National University of Ireland for his collegiality and support in helping me complete a working paper from which this developed. Finally, my gratitude to Central Michigan University for allowing me the time to avail myself of these opportunities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social WorkCentral Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA
  2. 2.OkemosUSA

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