Older Adults’ Deployment of ‘Distrust’

Bran Knowles, Vicki Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)
655 Downloads (Pure)


Older adults frequently deploy the concept of distrust when discussing digital technologies, and it is tempting to assume that distrust is largely responsible for the reduced uptake by older adults witnessed in the latest surveys of technology use. To help understand the impact of distrust on adoption behavior, we conducted focus groups with older adults exploring how, in what circumstances, and to what effect older adults articulate distrust in digital technologies. Our findings indicate that distrust is not especially relevant to older adults’ practical decision making around technology (non-)use. The older adults in our study used the language of distrust to open up discussions around digital technologies to larger issues related to values. This suggests that looking to distrust as a predictor of non-use (e.g., in Technology Acceptance Model studies) may be uniquely unhelpful in the case of older adults, as it narrows the discussion of technology acceptance and trust to interactional issues, when their use of distrust pertains to much wider concerns. Likewise, technology adoption should not be viewed as indicative of trust or an endorsement of technology acceptability. Older adults using-while-distrusting offers important insights into how to design truly acceptable digital technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2018


  • Adoption
  • Ageing
  • Aging
  • Inclusive design
  • Technology acceptance model (TAM)
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction


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