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Can the internet improve the well-being of the elderly?
journal contributionposted on 2008-03-01, 00:00 authored by David MellorDavid Mellor, L Firth, Kathleen Moore
In this paper we report on a project that aimed to evaluate the potential of the Internet to reduce social isolation amongst the elderly, and thereby, improve psychosocial functioning. Twenty residents of a retirement village volunteered to be given access to, and training in, the use of computers and the Internet. After 3 months, they exhibited little change in measures of self-esteem, positive affect, personal well-being, optimism and social connectedness. However, they reported that they found the use of the Internet to be of great benefit. Over the 12 months of the study 12 participants discontinued their involvement for a variety of reasons. After 12 months, the eight participants who remained in the study again reported a range of positive outcomes however, quantitative survey data did not confirm these findings of a generally-positive experience. This discrepancy between the qualitative (interview) data and the quantitative (survey) data suggests that impact of the Internet on the wellbeing of the elderly may be more complex than suggested, and broader than was assessed psychometrically. We make specific recommendations about the introduction of computers to elderly with care both in how participants are selected and how their well being is monitored subsequently.