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Media-literacy interventions should have well developed aims, content, providers and approaches that are implemented to best meet the needs of older adults

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

Review question

What is known about how to foster media literacy among older adults?


Older adults (age 65+) typically use digital technologies and media less often and differently than younger age groups. Some older adults may lack the ability to understand, analyze and evaluate media content for their trustworthiness.

The three dimensions of media literacy are the ability to use, understand and create media content. Current studies focus mostly on older adults’ access and use of digital media rather than their creation.

There is currently little research on effective and meaningful ways to foster media literacy in older adults. Existing research indicates that learning should be based on older adults’ media literacy needs and interests.

How the review was done

A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published between August 2016 and June 2019 was conducted. Studies that focused on senior citizens, information and communication technology (ICT), computers, technology, media, digital literacy, digital competence, learning, pedagogy, skills, training and intergenerational learning were included in the review.

A total of 534 studies were identified in searches and 9 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

This review was funded by the Teacher Education Development Programme of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

What the researchers found

Successful media-literacy interventions include individual or small group instruction, several learning sessions spread out over long periods of time, a slower pace of instruction, printed handouts and sufficient repetition. These interventions can benefit from an intergenerational approach. Social support from educators and peers is especially important. 

A large number of studies reported increased skills to use information and communication technology (ICT), which correlates to increased happiness, self-esteem, optimism, social networking and quality of life. Increased ICT skills also allowed older adults to play a more active role in their own health and care.

Media-literacy interventions should be targeted towards people over the age of 76, older adults with less experience with technology, homebound older adults and minority populations with low health literacy skills. Senior centres, public libraries, and community-based settings are promising venues for these programs.


Media-literacy interventions for older adults needs further development and creative enrichment in terms of aims, content, providers, recipients, and pedagogical approaches. These interventions should follow a needs-based approach and address the multiple life roles that older adults play, such as citizens, consumers, caregivers, partners, spouses, retirees, and parents.

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