Older Adults' Reasons for Using Technology while Aging in Place

Sebastiaan T M Peek, Katrien G Luijkx, Maurice D Rijnaard, Marianne E Nieboer, Claire S van der Voort, Sil Aarts, Joost van Hoof, Hubertus J M Vrijhoef, Eveline J M Wouters
Gerontology 2016, 62 (2): 226-37

BACKGROUND: Most older adults prefer to age in place, and supporting older adults to remain in their own homes and communities is also favored by policy makers. Technology can play a role in staying independent, active and healthy. However, the use of technology varies considerably among older adults. Previous research indicates that current models of technology acceptance are missing essential predictors specific to community-dwelling older adults. Furthermore, in situ research within the specific context of aging in place is scarce, while this type of research is needed to better understand how and why community-dwelling older adults are using technology.

OBJECTIVE: To explore which factors influence the level of use of various types of technology by older adults who are aging in place and to describe these factors in a comprehensive model.

METHODS: A qualitative explorative field study was set up, involving home visits to 53 community-dwelling older adults, aged 68-95, living in the Netherlands. Purposive sampling was used to include participants with different health statuses, living arrangements, and levels of technology experience. During each home visit: (1) background information on the participants' chronic conditions, major life events, frailty, cognitive functioning, subjective health, ownership and use of technology was gathered, and (2) a semistructured interview was conducted regarding reasons for the level of use of technology. The study was designed to include various types of technology that could support activities of daily living, personal health or safety, mobility, communication, physical activity, personal development, and leisure activities. Thematic analysis was employed to analyze interview transcripts.

RESULTS: The level of technology use in the context of aging in place is influenced by six major themes: challenges in the domain of independent living; behavioral options; personal thoughts on technology use; influence of the social network; influence of organizations, and the role of the physical environment.

CONCLUSION: Older adults' perceptions and use of technology are embedded in their personal, social, and physical context. Awareness of these psychological and contextual factors is needed in order to facilitate aging in place through the use of technology. A conceptual model covering these factors is presented.

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