Internet Use and Perceived Impact on Quality of Life among Older Adults: A Phenomenological Investigation

By Veena Chattaraman, Wi-Suk Kwon and Juan Gilbert.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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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

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 344.750KB).

Dr. Veena Chattaraman

Assistant Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Dr. Veena Chattaraman is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Consumer Affairs at Auburn University, USA. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Consumer Sciences, The Ohio State University in 2006 with minor areas in social psychology and cultural anthropology. Her expertise lies in conducting consumer research using qualitative and quantitative methodologies including focus group interviews, experimental designs, surveys, and case studies, among diverse consumer segments. Her current research program spans social-psychological aspects of consumer behavior with a particular emphasis on social interactions with embodied conversational agents used in e-commerce. Dr. Chattaraman has authored several research articles, which have been published in reputed journals such as the Journal of Business Research, Psychology & Marketing, and Journal of Consumer Behaviour.

Dr. Wi-Suk Kwon

Associate Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA

Dr. Wi-Suk Kwon is an Associate Professor and Human Science Professor of Retailing in the Department of Consumer Affairs at Auburn University. She received her B.S. degree (1993) in clothing and textiles from Seoul National University, South Korea, her M.S. degree (2001) in textiles and clothing from Iowa State University, and her Ph.D. degree (2005) in consumer sciences from The Ohio State University. Her areas of research include consumer psychology related to retail technology adoption, aging consumers, and soft goods and retail branding.

Juan Gilbert

Professor & Chair, Division of Human Centered Computing, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA

Dr. Juan E. Gilbert is a Professor and the Chair of the Division of Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University in the School of Computing. He is also an ACM Distinguished Speaker and a Senior Member of the IEEE Computer Society and a National Associate of the National Research Council of the National Academies.