OLDER PEOPLE’S ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE INTERNET: COMPARISONS AMONG USERS AND NON-USERS
Goldsmiths, University of London (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Despite the potential benefits that new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could provide for older people, it is in this particular age group where large numbers of non-users can be found. Although older people’s use of the Internet, which is the focus of this study, has steadily increased in recent years, the use is still less frequent compared to younger generations. An age-related digital divide has therefore been suggested. The majority of research into technology acceptance models that attempt to explain why individuals adopt or choose not to adopt technologies has been conducted in occupational contexts or educational settings where, for example, new technologies were introduced. Thus, the present study addressed the somewhat under-researched population of older participants in research into new technologies. The aim of the current study was to investigate factors that could describe and explain use and non-use of several Internet functions, such as searching for information and using e-mail, among older individuals. Questionnaires that included separate sections for users and non-users were distributed to people aged 65 and over. Based on user acceptance models, the questionnaires also included variables that were specifically significant for older generations and incorporated further socio-cultural aspects. Responses of N = 212 participants were analysed. The present study could confirm the importance of factors suggested in the technology acceptance literature, more specifically, relevant factors for non-users included the perceived usefulness of the specific Internet function and the perceived ease of use in relation to this function. Social influence also represented a critical variable. Factors that describe the Internet use among users could be more globally categorized into negative and positive attitudes towards, and aspects of, the Internet function under investigation. Furthermore, although access has often been considered as the main factor responsible for an age-related digital divide, results of the present study suggest that this seems to be only partly true. The results suggest that there is in fact a clear divide among older people but that access plays a less prominent role for these intra-group differences. Instead, motivational aspects to learn the technologies are emphasized. People’s views on life-long learning and how they evaluate the impact of these technologies on society, aspects that were also investigated in this study, have to be considered as well. The research extends work on user acceptance models by applying such models to older generations. The inclusion of age-specific and further motivational and socio-cultural variables allows to more fully account for older people’s use or non-use of new technologies. It is crucial to address these additional factors as they not only provide a better understanding of why people opt for or against these technologies but also as this understanding will ultimately help to design appropriate interventions.
Keywords: internet use, user acceptance models, older people.