Methodological Strategies to Understand Smartphone Practices for Social Connectedness in Later Life

  • Mireia Fernández-ArdèvolEmail author
  • Andrea Rosales
  • Eugène Loos
  • Alexander Peine
  • Roser Beneito-Montagut
  • Daniel Blanche
  • Björn Fischer
  • Stephen Katz
  • Britt Östlund
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11593)


Digital practices in later life are not yet well understood. Therefore, this paper discusses the framework for a research design project that aims at tracing differences and similarities in how older adults use their smartphones in circumstances in and outside their homes in Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada. The research questions of this international research project focus on the extent to which digital mobile practices relate to perceived social connectedness among older adults aged 55–79 years old. While studies have shown that the subjective experience of ‘being connected’ supports continued wellbeing in later life, there remains an insufficient understanding of the processes through which digital mediated social interaction is effective for social connectedness. The analytical framework of the project prioritizes the co-constituency of (digital) technology and ageing, and takes digital practices in everyday life as its entry point. The main data collection tool will be the tracking of smartphone activity of 600 older adults (150 per country) during four weeks. An online survey and qualitative interviews will gather data about the meanings of the quantified digital practices, and how they shape (if they do) the participants’ connection to the world. This approach will allow us not only to get insight into what older adults say how they used their smartphone but also to gain insight into their real-life daily use. The assessment of the challenges, strengths, and weaknesses of the methods contributes towards an accurate and appropriate interpretation of empirical results and their implications.


Tracking Log data Survey data Interviews Mixed methods Research design Older adults Later life Smartphones Digital practices 



The research project BConnect@Home ( is funded by the JTP 2017 - JPI More Years, Better Lives (Grant Agreement 363850). The Netherlands: ZONMW (Project 9003037411); Spain: MINECO (ref. PCI-2017-080), FORTE (ref. 2017-02301); and Canada: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (201704MYB-386097). It also received partial funding from the Ageing + Communication + Technology project (ref. 895-2013-1018, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada), and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities (ref: FJCI-2015-24120).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Rosales
    • 1
  • Eugène Loos
    • 2
  • Alexander Peine
    • 3
  • Roser Beneito-Montagut
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Daniel Blanche
    • 1
  • Björn Fischer
    • 6
  • Stephen Katz
    • 7
  • Britt Östlund
    • 6
  1. 1.Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)Universitat Oberta de Catalunya/Open University of CataloniaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Utrecht University School of GovernanceUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Copernicus Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Computer Science DepartmentUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya/Open University of CataloniaBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  6. 6.Department for Biomedical Engineering and Health SystemsRoyal Institute of Technology, KTHStockholmSweden
  7. 7.Sociology DepartmentTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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