Digital communication in a country that turns old: Smarthone 60+ users in Brazil


The growth of the population over 60 years (known as 60+) and their way of consumption of digital communication is a topic that has been gaining space, especially in developing countries like Brazil. From a critical point of view, it is perceived that there is inequality in the design of digital media products for those users, especially in terms of elements of the user interface. This issue is highlighted in a scenario where the 60+ want to be increasingly connected through digital media (PNAD, 2018). Thus, the purpose of this paper is to bring preliminary results of a study on digital communication behavior by brazilian 60+ generations. It also presents a vision of consumption by their children, who are part of a younger generation and grew along with the computerization of the media.

Based on an understanding that digital interfaces are in constant change of cultural and social roles (Andersen & Pold, 2018), this paper tries to elucidate how users familiarized to a more analogical context, with communication medias as telephones, television or radio, can integrate themselves more holistically with the digital media and everything the technology beyond it can offer. Like McLuhan (1964), Flusser (2007) commented that as human hands are used to manipulate objects - tools, machines or electronics serve as imitation of the human hands, functioning as human extensions. That said, that is understood how digital technologies are here to stay and take the place of physical stuff, transforming the physical extensions into a dematerialized world. This has to happen not only for younger users, but also for generations that have experienced different media context and nowadays have easy access to new possibilities.

In order to get consistent data for this study, there were employed three methodological approaches. The first is referred to a collection of mobile data from 60+ volunteer users, using an app developed by UBILAB / PUCRS (Pellanda, Pase, Nunes, Streck, Souza & Pereira, 2019). The second was an in-depth interview followed by card sorting with a group of selected participants that represented the profiles revealed in the data collection. The third step consisted of an online questionnaire for the children of 60+. The objective was to understand the perception of a younger generation about digital communication by older generations

The results showed some very curious behaviors regarding digital communication of Brazilian 60+ users. There is a preference for specific kinds of apps, as well as a lack of general interest in searching or investigating for new apps or resources. The study confirms the hypothesis that many possibilities of the digital world are far away from 60+ users. One perceives that there is a missing dialogue between interfaces and the users, that meets a lack of midiatic literacy. Although there are different user profiles, the main reason for smartphone use for older generations in Brazil goes through social reasons, that leaves behind other kinds of communication apps, like those of information or news.