Abstract

We present a review of literature from the fields of gerontology, HCI and human factors, which focus on the nature of family and peer relationships in old age. We find both simplistic, prevailing models of what it means to be old, as well as deeper insights which often belie these models. In addition, we discover that new technologies are often also based on quite simple assumptions, but that their deployment points to a more complex reality. This paper considers a number of perspectives on relationships in later life, critiques the assumptions underscoring them, and presents an alternative view which we believe is more in line with the perspective of elderly people themselves. We end by discussing what this means in terms of designing new technologies for older people.