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Title:The Community Informatics of an Aging Society: A Comparative Case Study of Public Libraries and Senior Centers
Author(s):Lenstra, Noah
Subject(s):Community informatics
Library & Information Science
Public Libraries
Older Adults
Digital literacy
Information infrastructure
Abstract:As the global population ages, and as digital technologies become ever more densely woven into the fabric of everyday life, the localized social support older adults rely on to maintain digital literacy will increase in importance. While many older adults struggle to learn digital technologies for the first time in their lives, a growing number of older adults have learned some digital technologies, and have access to some digital equipment. This growing population struggles with maintaining and extending digital literacy. The roles of the family in supporting older adult digital literacy has begun to receive scholarship. Less well understood are the extra-familial, community-based social supports older adults rely on. The hypothesis of this study is that maintaining and growing digital literacy in older adulthood requires ongoing social support at the level of the local community. This study’s research question is “How and to what extent does community-based information infrastructure support older adult digital literacy?” To analyze this topic, I used the tools of participant observation and interviewing to study the community-based, primarily publicly-funded information infrastructure that in the United States of America serves older adults’ social, recreational, and informational needs: senior centers and public libraries. This research focused on three public libraries and three senior centers in a specific geographical community in order to empirically analyze the roles these institutions play in supporting older adult digital literacy. Analysis of the data collected illustrates how digital literacy is acquired and maintained in old age. Older adults well connected to diverse sources of support in their communities are better able to maintain and grow digital literacy than those that lack this support. Structural obstacles impact these processes. The pressures of needing a job and needing to take care of one’s family in old age lead to different paths towards digital literacy for the poorer older adults that participated in this study. Findings also illustrate the challenges and successes of community-based information infrastructure. Providing opportunities for older adults to share their experiences learning digital technologies created a community of learners, which enabled older adults to support one another in their projects to maintain digital literacy. Senior centers and public libraries play important roles in ensuring older adults stay digitally engaged, and thus remain active members of the information society. This study’s findings show how communities grapple with the challenges and opportunities of community informatics in our aging society. This poster won an an honorable mention award at the the Jean Tague-Sutcliffe Doctoral Student Research Poster Competition.
Issue Date:2016-01-07
Citation Info:Lenstra, Noah. (2016). "The Community Informatics of an Aging Society: A Comparative Case Study of Public Libraries and Senior Centers." Poster presented at Doctoral Student Poster Session, Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) 2016 Conference, Boston, January 5-8, 2016.
Genre:Conference Poster
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-04-01

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