Older adults using, understanding and creating media content

The Bottom Line

  • The ability to use, understand and create media content is important for citizens of all ages.

  • Digital media allow people to interact with other people, which improves their quality of life, breaks down social isolation and promotes active civic participation, learning and development.

  • The good news is that you can train your critical eye and improve your skills in using, understanding and creating media content.


Today, the first instinct of a large majority of people is to go on the Internet to keep up to date with current events, to learn more about the signs and symptoms of an illness, to make a medical appointment, to compare different types of financial investments, to shop for groceries online and have it delivered, to watch tutorials on their favourite hobby, to share their ideas in online discussion groups...

Digital media exert an incredible influence on our culture and society. It is important to be able to access information in the media, but above all to be able to analyze it and separate the wheat from the chaff. Digital media are an infinite source of information, especially about health-related issues, and can influence our decision-making processes. Failure to take a critical look at media content can lead to bad decisions, marginalization, social isolation, feelings of exclusion and technological anxiety.

In addition, the development of new information and communication technologies leads us to play new roles. We are no longer just "passive receivers" of information. We are becoming creators of media content, whether it is by sharing news, photos, videos and much more.

Given the evolution of digital media, how can we promote media literacy among older adults?

What research tells us

A recent moderate-quality systematic review examined 40 studies of media literacy interventions in older adults, predominantly women over 60 years of age.(1)

The research looked at the use of digital media (knowing how to use devices, software, search engines, social media, online services, or email) and the ability to understand and appraise information, including recognizing reliable sources. The creation of content (whether written documents, photos and videos, or even an online health profile) has been examined to a lesser extent. However, it should not be neglected, because it allows you to familiarize yourself with technologies while promoting well-being, autonomy, expression and active participation.

The various media education interventions resulted in positive attitude changes, such as increased confidence, self-esteem, family interactions and quality of life, as well as decreased loneliness and social isolation.

They have also fostered an increase in information and communication technology skills, as well as improved knowledge about health-related issues.

But these interventions could use different pedagogical approaches (or ways to teach). The review identified four pedagogical approaches commonly used:
1. Formal, teacher-centred pedagogy: content designed by the teacher, in small groups or individually, with an adapted pace, printed manuals, peer learning, and collaborative tasks.

2. Individual and learner-centred pedagogy: individual and sometimes intergenerational tutoring, the content of which is defined according to the needs of the participant.

3. Blended and online pedagogy: one-on-one tutoring, age-appropriate learning systems that can be used with minimal or no computer skills, often aimed at acquiring basic computer skills.

4. Creative and learner-centred pedagogy: an individual approach whose main objective is not necessarily to learn to use technologies, but rather to give free rein to personal expression to promote active participation.

Regardless of the approach used, what has made the educational interventions successful is the role and benevolence of tutors, peers, teachers, and professionals, as well as support provided individually or in a group.

Which approach to target, by whom and for whom?

No matter your age, health, previous experiences with digital media, training exists to help you improve your confidence and skills, especially in the use of online health services, and understanding the information found on the Internet.

• Identify your digital media needs (use, understanding and / or creating media content).

• Think about what pedagogical approach would work best for you.

• Benefit from intergenerational support. Young people around you would surely be happy to share their knowledge of the use of new information and communication technologies.

• Find out what programs and services are available at your public library or community centre. Media literacy workshops are often offered to older adults. You may also be interested in content creation activities, whether it is writing your memoirs, or producing video content.

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Author Details


  1. Rasi P, Vuojärvi H, Rivinen S. Promoting media literacy among older people: A systematic review. Adult Education Quarterly, 2021, 71(1): 37–54.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.