The senior population, consisting of individuals 65 and over, is the fastest growing age group in the United States due to increased longevity of people, and the fact that the demographic group known as baby boomers is joining the senior segment. These national growth trends in the aging population highlight the importance for research efforts to address the social and psychological needs of this population, particularly to improve their quality of life so that it parallels improvements in health care and longevity. This study employs a phenomenological qualitative approach in answering the key research question: Does Internet use impact quality of life among older adults?
As part of the this phenomenological investigation, five focus group interviews were conducted with 48 older adults to understand perceived impact of Internet use on their quality of life. The interviews revealed eight perceived dimensions of quality of life. Five dimensions including social connectivity, agent of information, enjoyment and entertainment, convenience, and health empowerment represented the positive impacts of Internet use. The remaining dimensions including Internet addiction, lack of personal contact, and Internet frustrations reflected the negative impacts of Internet use on well-being and quality of life. Emergent global themes from the focus groups are described as ‘lived experiences’ and discussed in context to empirical findings from this study as well as other national studies on Internet use among the senior population. This study also identified several potentially increasing trends in older adults’ engagement in Internet activities with respect to reading news and events online, pursuing hobbies and interests online, and implementing financial/commercial transactions (shopping, banking, and travel reservations) online, all of which contribute toward enhanced well-being among the senior population.
|Keywords:||Internet Use, Quality of Life, Well-being, Seniors|
Assistant Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
Associate Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA
Professor & Chair, Division of Human Centered Computing, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA