Technology for fostering intergenerational connectivity: scoping review protocol
Boger and Mercer Systematic Reviews
Technology for fostering intergenerational connectivity: scoping review protocol
Jennifer Boger 0 1
Kathryn Mercer 2 3
0 Research Institute for Aging , Waterloo, ON , Canada
1 Department of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. , Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1 , Canada
2 University of Waterloo Library, University of Waterloo , Waterloo, ON , Canada
3 School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo , Waterloo, ON , Canada
Background: The simultaneous increase in geographically dispersed families and general decrease in engagement in local communities is resulting in fewer opportunities for youth and older adults interact in meaningful ways. Technology is becoming increasingly pervasive and flexible and providing new opportunities to foster intergenerational connection that can be implemented and evaluated across a multitude of populations and contexts. What research has been done in this area is spread across disciplines and what aspects of technologies could make them more effective is not well understood. Method: The scoping review will be completed in five stages: (1) identifying the research question, (2) identifying relevant studies, (3) selecting studies, (4) charting the data, and (5) collating, summarizing, and reporting the results. Comprehensive descriptive data from each study will be presented along with an analysis of similarities and differences in research from different disciplines. Discussion: This scoping review focuses on a search of the literature to gain an understanding of what technologies have been used specifically for fostering intergenerational connectivity and to establish what future directions for research could be. To the authors' knowledge, it is the first scoping review of its kind.
Scoping review; Technology; Older adults; Elderly; Youth; Children; Intergenerational connectivity; Engagement; Connecting generations
Social interactions lie at the heart of a functional society.
Interactions between the youth (people younger than
19 years old) and older adults (people over 50 years old)
provide a natural and socially healthy mechanism for the
mutual exchange of knowledge, values and skills and
have been shown to significantly benefit both
populations. The literature review conducted by Springate and
] concludes that effective intergenerational
programming had positive outcomes related to health
and well-being, isolation and sense of worth for older
adults, gaining of specific skills and self-esteem for
younger adults, and increased understanding, friendship,
enjoyment and confidence for both groups. This is
supported by research such as the intergenerational
mentoring program developed by Au et al. [
], where university
students provided 40 h of volunteer support to frail
older adults over a 4-month period. This interaction
resulted in significant and positive changes in meaning of
life, service motivation and ageism for the youth. Marcia
et al. [
] demonstrated that a monthly vising program to
an assisted living facility by elementary students
improved self-perception and mitigated behavioural
difficulties in the classroom; the program was considered to
be enjoyable for both the younger and older adults.
Kemp’s work with grandparent-adult grandchildren
demonstrated that ongoing relationships provide a
“safety net” for one another, particularly regarding social
and emotional support [
While there are clear advantages to intergenerational
connectivity, global society is increasingly shifting
toward geographically dispersed parent-and-child(ren)
]. Recent social culture trends, particularly
in more developed economies, have led to a decrease in
connectivity and interactions between members of
]. This decrease in interactive opportunities
between older adults and youth in families and the
community has led to a considerable decrease in
connectivity between the older and younger generations
]. At the same time, lower birth rates and
increased life spans means the average age of our global
society is expected to increase rapidly; people over
the age of 65 are estimated to increase from 8.5% in
2015 to 16.7% in 2050 [
]. Population estimates are higher
for developed regions with 27% of Europeans and 21.4% of
North Americans over the age of 65 by 2050 [
This unprecedented decrease in the ratio of young to
old will undoubtedly bring about many societal changes.
The benefits of intergenerational connectivity provide
mutually beneficial opportunities that inherently mitigate
substantial social pressures that may arise from aging
populations. For example, Harley et al. discuss how internet,
mobile and pervasive technologies explore key themes
with different communication issues in an
intergenerational context, and technologies are emerging as a
meaningful way of social engagement [
example is that reciprocal volunteerism between the
young and old would enable access to mutually beneficial
skills or resources while simultaneously providing
potential opportunities for generationally situated information,
longer-term intergenerational relationships, and reduced
demands on formal service providers. Moreover, increased
lifespans mean that generations will concurrently age for
longer than ever before, resulting in longer periods of time
to form and benefit from meaningful relationships .
Intergenerational connectivity may provide mutually
beneficial opportunities that mitigate social pressures
arising from aging populations. Four in 10 older adults
now own smartphones and, as a group, are increasingly
digitally connected, owning and adopting technologies at
a similar rate to those under 65, with similar increasing
trends in uptakes of social media [
]. While older
adults face different barriers to uptake, including
physical challenges alongside lack of confidence and
awareness, research has shown that older adults are likely to
seek help in how to understand and use technologies
]. The increasingly ubiquitous presence of technology
in society offers an opportunity for connecting youth
and older adults in new and innovative ways.
Interventions could be implemented and evaluated across a
multitude of population characteristics such as age,
socioeconomic backgrounds, health, geography, and
technology characteristics such as type, purpose and format.
While technologies are being created with this goal in
mind, there is still much we need to understand in order
to engage in this area of research in a thoughtful and
impactful way. By identifying what has been done, we may
understand what has been effective, what could be
improved and what gaps exist.
Despite there being significant research on aging,
intergenerational partnerships and technology, it is not yet
clear to the extent what empirical research has been
done that involves all three aspects. To the authors’
knowledge, there is no published synthesis on
technologies in general that have been developed or used
with the specific intention of fostering
The primary goal of this scoping review is to identify
the current scope of research regarding technologies that
have been specifically designed or used to foster
intergenerational connectivity. To achieve this, we will
identify characteristics of the research and related
technologies, map key insights from these into thematic
domains and determine how these data can be used to
target future research efforts. This work constitutes the
first step of a research program intended to develop
evidence-based technology and programs that can foster
intergenerational connectivity; insights from conducting
this review will be used to guide future research. It is
anticipated that this review will support researchers and
others in the assessment of interventions that use
existing technology as well as the formulation of new
technologies to foster intergenerational connectivity.
The research team for this review has extensive
experience in the areas of technology, aging, intergenerational
communities, health, biomedical engineering and
This scoping review will follow the methodology
established by Arskey and O’Malley and adapted by Levac et al.
]. The stages include (1) identifying the research
question, (2) identifying relevant studies, (3) study
selection, (4) charting the data, and (5) collating, summarizing
and reporting the results. The PRISMA-P checklist is
included as an additional file [see Additional file 1].
PROSPERO registration is not required as it is a scoping review.
Stage 1: Identifying the research question
Research regarding technology for connecting older
adults and youth has been discipline-centric (e.g.
computer science and sociology) with minimal crossover;
this has resulted in the research in this area being
scattered, with interventions focusing on aspects that
align (often solely) with the developer(s)’ specific
discipline. Moreover, while some systematic, scoping and
literature reviews regarding using technology to connect
generations have been conducted, they have focused
on a specific aspect, such as technologies for
encouraging game play between the generations [
development of intergenerational programs that use
technology  or older adults’ use of ambient and
networking technologies [
The lack of a comprehensive overview that includes all
disciplines led to the guiding research question for this
scoping review, which is “What technological
interventions exist that are specifically designed to foster
Stage 2: Identifying relevant studies/search strategy
ACM, IEEE, MEDLINE (PubMed), CINAHL, Scopus
and Web of Science databases will be searched for
relevant publications using predefined search terms. These
databases were selected to capture the diversity of
disciplines where relevant work is likely to be indexed and
reflect the potential scope of relevant literature.
Keywords used for search terms will include: older
adult*, social media, social network, adolescent*, aged,
application, app, child*, computer, communication*,
community connectivity, cross-generational, device,
digital, elder*, geriatric, grandchild*, grandparent*,
intergeneration*, intervention*, learning, mentoring,
outreach, partnership, program, relations, senior*, senior
citizen, software, student, teaching, technolog*,
The research team will use a three-stage approach to
identify appropriate publications. The first stage is
searching the six electronic databases using standardized
search terms adapted to the requirements of each
respective database. The second stage involves searching
the reference lists of literature that meets all inclusion
criteria (outlined in the “Eligibility criteria” section
below). The third and final stage involves hand searching
specific key publications such as identified white papers
or conference presentations for any references we may
Stage 3: Study selection
Type of studies The goal of this review is to determine
the amount, type, and focus of existing peer-reviewed
research that has been done (i.e. peer-reviewed journal
papers and conference papers that employ any different
methodology). Grey literature (e.g. conference
presentations, white papers, theses and research reports) will not
be included. Searches will not be limited by a date range.
Studies will be considered eligible if they address
aspects of creating or using technologies with the specific
intent of building intergenerational connections, in
person or virtually (e.g. over the internet), through
interaction of youth and older adults. Secondary use of
technologies, such as using a car for a younger person to
visit an older one, will not be included. Example topics
that would be eligible for inclusion are:
Grandchild(ren)/grandparent(s)’ views and experiences
regarding shared online communities
Technology-based interventions designed to
facilitate intergenerational knowledge exchange
Online partnerships in sharing or learning about culture
Development of technology meant to connect and foster intergenerational leisure activities
We will be including all studies regardless of
methodology or design to provide a rich and descriptive
narrative of the current state of research on intergenerational
connectivity, while acknowledging that as an emerging
field there is no existing research cohesion.
Eligibility criteria The following inclusion criteria will
Published in the English language
Must contain both youth below 21 and adults over 50 years of age
Peer-reviewed primary research (e.g. journal and conference publications)
Design or use of a technology with the specific intention of fostering intergenerational connectivity
Exclusion criteria are:
Publications that are not peer-reviewed reviewed, such as editorials, book reviews, commentaries or opinion pieces
Programs or interventions where the design or use of technology was not a focus (e.g. summer camps or mixed residences)
Literature, scoping, systematic and other reviews
While review articles (i.e. scoping reviews, systematic
reviews, meta-analyses, narrative reviews) will not be
included in in the scoping results, they may be used in the
background and/or discussion.
We will consider a broad range of digital technologies
used to support connectivity, including apps, wearable
fitness, online tools, and custom-built applications. We
are not defining any geographic, socioeconomic, or
health inclusion or exclusion criteria.
Selection of items for inclusion Publications will be
selected and screened using a three-stage process. The
first stage is to use the inclusion and exclusion criteria
(described above) to select possible studies for inclusion
based on returned titles from database searches. The
second stage will involve screening the abstracts of the
publications identified in stage 1 using the same criteria. The
third and final stage will be a full text read-through of
papers that passed the first two stages. All stages will be
performed by two independent reviewers. Any disagreements
regarding inclusion at any of the stages will be resolved by
a third party and, if necessary, face-to-face discussion by
the review team. The selection and exclusion process will
be organized using a PRISMA flowchart.
Stage 4: Charting the data
Data extraction and organization will be performed
using a set of standard metrics (e.g. study location,
sample size, methodology and discipline) and relevant
metrics (e.g. type of technology used and relationship of
A combination of EndNote X8 and Microsoft Excel
2013 will be used to organize and track relevant data.
We will use these software to (1) remove duplicates; (2)
document and manage the screening process; (3)
categorize publications that meet our inclusion and
exclusion criteria; (4) extract, organize, and search related
data and information from the publication content and
(5) manage of full text versions of included publications,
including adding relevant notes that include key data
Stage 5: Data synthesis
Identified publications will be described in terms of
location where the study was performed; research field(s) of
those performing the study; sample size of the study;
type/description of technology used; purpose of
technology used and study design and methodology. We will
present the descriptors as text, tables and graphs. We
acknowledge that we may not be able to analyze and
report on risk of bias and strength of methodology,
quality, rigour and other outcomes due to the wide variety of
studies being examined, and because this is an emerging
field, there is no standard methodology. We will be
guided by the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool
for qualitative research, the Quality Assessment Tool for
Quantitative Studies, and the Mixed Methods
Assessment Tool when looking at studies included [
We will also be conducting a content analysis to
identify which aspect(s) of technology the study focuses on,
identify emergent themes and collect and identify
objectives and gaps in our understanding of the current state
of research. The discussion will be structured based on
the themes that emerge.
The aim of this review is to provide an overview of
peerreviewed publications related to technology for fostering
intergenerational connectivity. Since there is no established
vocabulary in this emerging field, the search strategy will
likely be iterative in nature to maximize our ability to
capture all relevant publications. Unfortunately, this broad
searching technique is often associated with a lower
precision and a larger number of redundant references; however,
most irrelevant publications should be excluded during title
and abstract screening.
A careful and focused effort will be put into developing
the searches, standardizing our selection and data
collection forms through collaboration with an expert librarian.
These documents will be established prior to the start of
the review and their content and structure thoroughly
assessed during pilot-testing. Through the data collection
process, there may be refinement of the search terms and
protocol to ensure that the quality, consistency, and
structure of the data extracted is methodical and appropriate.
Additionally, due to the nature of a scoping review on a
topic with relatively little written about it, the searches will
be more iterative in their nature.
Our methodology is grounded in validated research
practices; however, we acknowledge limitations to the
review. Limiting included papers to English will result in a
language bias. There will also be limitations to
publication type as our goal is to scope peer-reviewed literature;
therefore, gray literature and other non-peer-reviewed
publications and reviews will be excluded. Finally, as this
review is intended to achieve a high-level understanding
of the state of the field, there will be no formal
assessment of study quality.
This study is the first step of a comprehensive research
program that will be aimed at developing innovative
technologies and systems for fostering intergenerational
connectivity. As such the review will aim to (1) identify
what peer-reviewed literature exists, (2) summarize
relevant publications and (3) discern overreaching themes.
These results will be used to target one or more
identified key areas to better understand how technology can
be used to bring different groups of people closer
together, guide best practices in technology design, and
inform the development of new technology. The results of
this paper will more broadly offer foundational
knowledge regarding terminology, methods and existing
research that can inform new research, as well as creation
of new technologies. Our research team will use an
interdisciplinary approach to knowledge translation,
including using clear and generalizable vocabulary in the
interpretation of the results and presenting findings that
will be of interest to more than one discipline.
Additional file 1: PRISMA-P (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic
review and Meta-Analysis Protocols) 2015 checklist: recommended items
to address in a systematic review protocol. Description of data: This file is
the completed PRISMA-P 2015 checklist for items to address in a systematic
review protocol for the “Technology for fostering intergenerational connectivity”
scoping review protocol. (PDF 54 kb)
This study was supported by Schlegel Research Chair funds from the
SchlegelUniversity of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging; the Research Institute for
Aging had no role in the development of the scoping review protocol.
Availability of data and materials
JB conceptualized the review and was the primary author of the manuscript;
KM assisted in shaping search strategy and authoring the manuscript. Both
authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Consent for publication
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published
maps and institutional affiliations.
Submit your next manuscript to BioMed Central
and we will help you at every step:
1. Springate I , Atkinson M , Martin K. Intergenerational practice: a review of the literature . Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research ; 2008 .
2. Au A , Ng E , Garner B , Lai S , Chan K. Proactive aging and intergenerational mentoring program to promote the well-being of older adults: pilot studies . Clin Gerontol . 2015 ; 38 : 203 - 10 .
3. Marcia SM , Alicia RP , Parpura-Gill A , Cohen-Mansfield J . Direct observations of children at risk for academic failure: benefits of an intergenerational visiting program . Educ Gerontol . 2004 ; 30 : 663 - 75 .
4. Kemp CL . Dimensions of grandparent-adult grandchild relationships: from family ties to intergenerational friendships . Can J Aging . 2005 ; 24 : 161 - 77 .
5. Madianou M. Ambient co-presence: transnational family practices in polymedia environments . Global Networks . 2017 ; 16 : 183 - 201 .
6. Bengtson VL . The Burgess Award Lecture: beyond the nuclear family: the increasing importance of multigenerational bonds . J Marriage Fam . 2001 ; 63 : 1 - 16 .
7. Zentgraf KM , Chinchilla NS . Transnational family separation: a framework for analysis . J Ethn Migr Stud . 2012 ; 38 ( 2 ): 345 - 66 .
8. Skrbiš Z. Transnational families: Theorising migration, emotions and belonging . J Intercult Stud . 2008 ; 29 ( 3 ): 231 - 46 .
9. Schans D. Transnational family ties of immigrants in the Netherlands . Ethn Racial Stud . 2009 ; 32 ( 7 ): 1164 - 82 .
10. Leinaweaver JB . Outsourcing care: how Peruvian migrants meet transnational family obligations . Lat Am Perspect . 2010 ; 37 : 67 - 87 .
11. Hagestad GO . The aging society as a context for family life . Daedalus . 1986 ; 115 : 119 - 39 .
12. He W , Goodkind D , Kowal P . An aging world: 2015. Washington: U.S. Census Bureau; 2016 .
13. Harley D , Fitzpatrick G. YouTube and intergenerational communication: the case of Geriatric1927 . Univ Access Inf Soc . 2009 ; 8 : 5 - 20 .
14. Harley DA , Kurniawan SH , Fitzpatrick G , Vetere F . Age matters: bridging the generation gap through technology-mediated interaction . In: CHI ' 09 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems . Boston: ACM; 2009 . p. 4799 - 802 .
15. Anderson M , Perrin A . Tech adoption climbs among older adults . Washington: Pew Research Centre; 2017 .
16. Arksey H , O'Malley L . Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework . Int J Soc Res Methodol . 2005 ; 8 : 19 - 32 .
17. Levac D , Colquhoun H , O'Brien KK . Scoping studies: advancing the methodology . Implement Sci . 2010 ; 5 : 69 .
18. Zhang F , Kaufman D. A review of intergenerational play for facilitating interactions and learning . Gerontechnology . 2016 ; 14 : 127 - 38 .
19. Costa L , Veloso A . Being (grand) players: review of digital games and their potential to enhance intergenerational interactions . J Intergenerational Relationships . 2016 ; 14 : 43 - 59 .
20. Sánchez M , Kaplan MS , Bradley L . Using technology to connect generations: some considerations of form and function . Comunicar . 2015 ; 23 : 95 - 103 .
21. Campos W , Martinez A , Sanchez W , Estrada H , Castro-Sánchez NA , Mujica D. A systematic review of proposals for the social integration of elderly people using ambient intelligence and social networking sites . Cogn Comput . 2016 ; 8 : 529 - 42 .
22. Pluye P , Robert E , Cargo M , Bartlett G , O'Cathain A , Griffiths F , Boardman F , Gagnon MP , Rousseau MC . Proposal: a mixed methods appraisal tool for systematic mixed studies reviews . Montreal: Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; 2011 .
23. National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. Quality assessment tool for quantitative studies (updated 03 October , 2017 ). Hamilton: McMaster University; 2008 .
24. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme . CASP qualitative checklist (v 13.03.17) . 2017 .