Internet use/non-use by older adults: Netherlands and Sweden (WC2014-073)


Starting date: 22/12/2014

The Internet, which is part of today’s Information communication technology (ICT), is considered important for older adults to include in their lives for healthy and active aging. First of all, due to the digitalisation of services (governmental, leisure...), not having a minimum level of knowledge about how to use the Internet will ostracise the older adult from society. ICT is also important on a social level where it can play a large role in supporting older adults to engage and increase their well-being through communication to society, family and friends. Secondly, in order to sustain the number of older adults in need of health care, there will be a need to rely on Internet and technical applications in healthcare. The ratio of health care workers to older adults is on the decline and ICT can facilitate the care of older adults. The Internet promises quicker healthcare services and is even seen as a means to manage the cost of increase in life-expectancy. It can also offer a means to compensate for age-related decline and allow an elder to live independently.


Research conducted on Internet use by older adults found that there is a blend of socio-demographic, physical and psycho-social determinants affecting usage, such as: cognition, frailty, age, education, living alone or with someone, rural and urban living (J. Berner, 2014). Older adults are slow adapters, only a few (12.8%) of the older adults between the years 2004-2010, were beginning to use the Internet and especially after the age of 75 there is a decline in usage.


Studies have suggested that in order to consider the older adult as a user, a more thorough understanding of aging is necessary. The psychological, physical and social changes when aging all affect a person and may need to be taken into account. For example, with increasing age a person may begin to be less physically able to do things independently; this may lead to feelings of insecurity overall, which in turn may not make older people want to start using a computer, tablet PC or Internet.