Should older adults be encouraged to get online? the intersection of internet use and social inclusion
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Does the Internet really improve the lives of older adults? The literature around information and communication technology would suggest that use of the Internet can help to promote social inclusion but is this the case for older adults? The aim of this study was to understand the relationship older adults have with the Internet. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 15 participants aged 70 to 90 in Fall 2014 to explore the perceived benefits and barriers older adults experience with regards to Internet use. The Internet was found to plays an important role in the lives of older adults who use it. Light Internet users were the group most dissatisfied with their Internet abilities. Light users and non-users both expressed feeling left out due to their perceived lack of abilities. Non-users had no intention of learning to use the Internet despite having access to potential support, whereas light Internet users indicated feelings of frustration around perceived lack of support. Users and non-users discussed feelings of concern and suspicions related to the Internet and their ability to access the resource. Medium and avid users stated that the Internet played an important role in their lives and that they would be lost without it. This research explores the lived experience of older adults and the Internet, offering a better understanding of how the Internet impacts their lives and ability to maintain social inclusion. This research can inform policy around promoting the use of the Internet among older adults and whether it is necessary to focus efforts on bridging the digital divide.