The dual impact of online communication on older adults’ social connectivity

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8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose – In today’s aging world online communication is often viewed as a means to enhance social connectivity, and therefore well-being, of older adults. However, previous research on the influence of online communication on social connectivity largely disregards older adults, yields conflicting results and fails to assess the – debatable − causal direction of relationship. The purpose of this paper is to overcome these issues by developing four hypotheses related to who uses what, how, with whom.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors use a panel data study to test the hypotheses,
including 302 older adults. Response rates are between 62 and 75 percent.
Findings – The authors find, first, that older adults differentiate between social connectivity with other village members, i.e., village connectivity, and connectivity with friends. Second, the impact of online communication varies among these two types of social connectivity. Where e-mail use has a negative impact on village connectivity, it Q1 does not affect connectivity with friends. Facebook use on the other hand has a negative impact on connectivity with friends, but not on village connectivity. The negative effects were not
found among those older adults that were already well-connected on forehand, indicating a buffer effect.

Practical/implications – Policy makers’ implementing online communication tools to strengthen social connectivity of older adults, may want to carefully select tools based on the type of connectivity they aim to enhance. Impact needs to be monitored.

Originality/value – The authors contribute by analyzing how characteristics of online communication tools, i.e., information richness and privacy protection, as well as social connectivity, i.e., geographical proximity and emotional closeness jointly shape older adults’ social connectivity.

Keywords - Panel data, Longitudinal data
Paper type - Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-50
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Technology & People
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Panel data
  • Longitudinal data

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