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Title:Connecting: the use of information and communication technologies by older adults in a retirement community
Author(s):Linton, Norma J.
Director of Research:Hearne, Elizabeth G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bruce, Bertram C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hearne, Elizabeth G.; Smith, Linda C.; Kendall, Lori S.
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Older adults
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
retirement community
ethnographic study
Abstract:This is a long-term study of the use of information and communication technologies by 30 older adults (ages 70–97) living in a large retirement community. The study spanned the years of 1996 to 2008, during which time the research participants grappled with the challenges of computer use while aging 12 years. The researcher, herself a ‘mature learner,’ used a qualitative research design which included observations and open-ended interviews. Using a strategy of “intermittent immersion,” she spent an average of two weeks per visit on site and participated in the lives of the research population in numerous ways, including service as their computer tutor. With e-mail and telephone contact, she was able to continue her interactions with participants throughout the 12-year period. A long-term perspective afforded the view of the evolution, devolution or cessation of the technology use by these older adults, and this process is chronicled in detail through five individual “profiles.” Three research questions dominated the inquiry: What function do computers serve in the lives of older adults? Does computer use foster or interfere with social ties? Is social support necessary for success in the face of challenging learning tasks? In answer to the first question, it became clear that computers were valued as a symbol of competence and intelligence. Some individuals brought their computers with them when transferred to the single-room residences of assisted living or nursing care facilities. Even when use had ceased, their computers were displayed to signal that their owners were or had once been keeping up to date. In answer to the second question, computer owners socialized around computing use (with in-person family members or friends) more than, or as much as, they socialized through their computers in the digital realm of the Internet. And in answer to the third question, while the existence of social support did facilitate computer exploration, more important was the social support network generated and developed among fellow computer users.
Issue Date:2010-01-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2009 Norma Linton
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-01-06
Date Deposited:December 2

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