Numerous elderly, ubiquitous technology: Can smartphones alleviate elderly disability?

Time: 12.00 - 13.00

Venue: Congo Meeting Room, 2nd floor, Arthur Lewis Building

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Speaker: Gindo Tampubolon

Sustainable development goals set the achievement of health for all at all ages as an essential goal for all nations.  Maintaining health at older ages is turning into a complex problem around the world but especially in developing countries because while the developed world grow old after they grew rich, the developing countries grow old while still poor. The secular trend of population ageing is however surpassed by the rapid diffusion of smartphone technology. Yet scarce evidence is available on whether smartphone use affects health or reduces disability in older people in developing countries. We studied the indirect effect of smartphone use by any younger household member on older member disability in Indonesia, using the United Nations-proposed measure of disability. The study applied non-linear control function estimator on data from the Intercensal survey 2015 (N = 225,983 households having older member aged 60 and over). For identification we used exogenous covariation arising from location of base transceiver stations and wireless signal strength across 80,000 villages throughout Indonesia. We found evidence of persistent digital divide across social cleavages. Smartphone use by any younger member reduces disability by 78% in older member and its marginal effect is to reduce disability by 1.7 point which is equivalent to mild to no disability in any functional dimension. We discuss implications for broadening the conception of digital divide and attaining healthy ageing in developing countries.

About the presenter: Gindo is an Associate Faculty Member in the Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester. He supervises research students working on health inequalities using large scale multilevel surveys and longitudinal surveys, and also postdocs working on statistical genetics of ageing, in particular cognitive ageing.