Michael Pieper German National Research Center for Information Technology (GMD) Schloss Birlinghoven, D-53754, Sankt Augustin, Germany, email: email@example.com
In the future, western industrial societies will be demographically overaged. Elderly and ageing citizens will be one of the most important social groups of our future "Information Society". Up to now they are usually passive receivers of information, since they are not adequately supported in their interaction and communication needs, especially regarding social activities. If this situation remains unchanged, they will be secluded from important parts of the economic, social and cultural life of Information Society, which is supposed to become much more demanding with regard to a conscious reception and meaningful expression of information.
What is true for the elderly is especially true for the disabled. Even if unintendedly, the elderly and the disabled are bound to a tendency towards social isolation in everyday life, often due to mobility restrictions, which are either caused by maladies on account of ageing, e.g. low vision or loss of hearing which reduce spatial orientation, or to functional restrictions in spatial movement abilities. Empirical sociology has long proofed that spatial distance correlates with social distance and isolation ( Dodd and Nehnevajsa 1954). Moreover, in social environments, expressive and receptive handicaps, which may be accompanied by slow cognitive recollection due to ageing, put conventional face-to-face interaction under the load of delayed or extended reaction time. This far too often leads to further marginalisation or even stigmatisation of the elderly, which as an enduring experience on their side leads