Susanna Rivinen. Photo: Marko Junttila.

Dissertation: Media literacy among older people to be supported based on individual needs


Susanna Rivinen, M.Ed., studies in her dissertation the ways to support the media literacy of older people. She uncovers the main principles that are to be considered when planning and implementing media education to meet the needs of older people. This is the first Finnish dissertation focusing on media education for older people.

The modern world is highly digitalised. The coronavirus pandemic has further emphasised the significance of digitalisation and technology, as many social services have transitioned from face-to-face interaction and ordinary offices into various e-services and digital platforms.

Functioning in a digitalised world requires diverse media literacy from all of us. These skills are taught through media education. Traditionally, media education has been aimed at children, young people, and adults in working age, whereas older people have been disregarded.

– Not until recent years has increased attention been paid to media education for older people, and this has been further emphasised by the pandemic, Rivinen says.

Media literacy is a wide concept. It refers to individual skills that enable a person to access and use digital technology and media, to understand and critically analyse texts and content in the media, and to personally produce this material. Rivinen combines two familiar concepts – media literacy and geragogy – and uses them to build the novel concept of media literacy geragogy. By this concept she refers to the fine-tuning of guidance and instruction on older persons’ media literacy according to their needs.

The main principles of supporting older people’s media literacy

In her research, Rivinen specifies eight central designing principles of media literacy geragogy. They are always worth considering when designing and implementing media education for older people.

– The designing starts from (1) older people’s personal needs. This group is very heterogenic, so the needs are diverse as well, Rivinen says.

According to the author, older people’s media literacy must be addressed (2) holistically and by using (3) various pedagogical approaches. An instructor’s personality is very important, which is why (4) instructors with warm and social skills are required in the activity. Meanwhile, it is important to support older people’s (5) cognitive skills and (6) empowerment. The support offered must be given (7) systematically and continuously. Finally, Rivinen recommends (8) the increase of cross-sectoral cooperation.

As part of her research, Rivinen has been designing material for teacher education at the University of Lapland. Her research has also resulted in the development of new content to the university’s separate teacher’s pedagogical studies.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation Developing Media Literacy Geragogy for Older People through Design-based Research by Susanna Rivinen, M.Ed., will be publically examined in the Faculty of Education at the University of Lapland on Friday 17 December 2021 at noon in lecture hall LS2 (Yliopistonkatu 8). The opponent is Professor Eija Kärnä from the Univerisity of Eastern Finland and the custos is Associate Professor Päivi Rasi from the University of Lapland.

The public defence can be followed online at

Coffee will be served in Restaurant Felli after the session.

Information on the doctoral candidate

Susanna Rivinen graduated from the University of Lapland as a master of education in 2015 with media education as the major subject. She has also completed separate teacher’s pedagogical studies.

Rivinen has diverse expertise in various research, education, and development tasks in media education. She has worked as a youth work instructor for the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare and as a pedagogical ICT instructor for the City of Kouvola.

As of autumn 2017, Rivinen has worked at Media Education Hub that is in charge of teaching and research in media education at the University of Lapland. For over 20 years, experts at MEH have carried out cutting-edge media education work in multidisciplinary research projects and by developing pedagogical models. Rivinen has worked at MEH as a university teacher, researcher, and project manager. Currently, she is working as the project manager of the OdigO project (Skillful Tutors of Adults’ and Ageing Population’s Digital Competences to Lapland).

To finalise the dissertation, Rivinen received the Esko Riepula grant.

Further information

Susanna Rivinen
phone: 040 484 4355

Information on the publication

Susanna Rivinen: Developing Media Literacy Geragogy for Older People through Design-based Research. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 325. ISBN 978-952-337-288-7, ISSN 1796-6310. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2021.

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