Older people and online social interactions: an empirical investigation

Hartnett, Elizabeth; Minocha, Shailey; Palmer, Jane; Petre, Marian; Evans, Shirley; Middup, Christopher Paul; Dunn, Kathryn; Murphy, Brendan; Heap, Tania and Roberts, Dave (2013). Older people and online social interactions: an empirical investigation. In: The UKAIS International Conference on Information Systems (UKAIS), 18-20 Mar 2013, Worcester College, University of Oxford.


We are investigating the role of online social interactions on the quality of life and well-being of people aged 65 years and over. We have conducted workshops and one-to-one semi-structured interviews, and have had free-flowing informal exchanges with our participants who have shared stories and incidents with us. Initial findings indicate that older people need an incentive to get and stay online; that relatives and trainers need to structure their help and use repetitive strategies to aid retention; that social networking is a step further than most older people take while email, Skype, and closed mailing lists or forums related to their interests are the most common applications for social interactions. Using social capital theory as a lens to look at the evidence, we find that existing social capital inherent in family and neighbourly ties seem to motivate older people to go online. Being online then allows people to maintain and renew relationships. We have yet to gather firm evidence for creation of new online relationships by older people.

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