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Social-structural lag revisited

A. Peine, L. Neven

Gerontechnology 2011; 10(3):129-139 doi:


This paper revisits Lawton’s classic distinction between individual and social-structural lag. We discuss Lawton’s original work in the light of two precursors on which he strongly relied: Riley’s notion of structural lag, and Lawton’s own environmental docility vs. proactivity argument. We then unravel two related implications of a social-structural lag perspective: (i) Older persons should be seen as proactive users of technology. (ii) Technology, in turn, should be explored in terms of the role opportunities it does or does not provide. A brief review of research in gerontechnology reveals that these implications have thus far not received adequate treatment. To rectify this, we make use of insights from the sociological and economic study of innovation, in particular the notions of script and domestication. We conclude with three propositions to augment the gerontechnology agenda on social-structural lag. In sum, research on and design for social-structural lag has to avoid an excessive concern with user needs; rather, it should focus on the inputs of users to evolving technology.

Keywords: social-structural lag; age script; domestication; enrichment; satisfaction

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Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology