Seniors’ Online Communities and Well-Being in Later Life

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

The advancement of computer technologies and the cybernetic revolution provide older adults with many new opportunities. One of them is the opportunity to participate in seniors’ online communities, namely, groups of older adults who interact online through diverse applications such as chat rooms and forums. Such communities seem to be very welcome by their target audiences. The number of seniors’ online communities is growing, and some of them have hundreds and even thousands of members. Moreover, a recent study (Nimrod 2010), which followed a full year’s activity in leading seniors’ communities, indicated that during the research period there was a constant increase in the daily activity level. The number of threads (i.e. discussions, stream of posts concerning the same topic and with
the same opening post) has doubled, and the number of authors and posts (i.e. messages)
has tripled. Hence, participating in seniors’ online communities may be described as a significant trend in older adults’ use of information and communication technology (ICT).
Based on a series of studies that utilized various methods (including content analysis, virtual ethnography, and online survey with community members), this chapter aims
to explain why these communities became so popular. It demonstrates that all the utilities
of ICT for older adults identified in previous research (e.g. Opalinski 2001; Xie 2007) are
offered by seniors’ online communities. Accordingly, as these functions were found to have
a significant contribution to seniors’ well-being (e.g. Dickenson and Hill 2007; Fokkema
and Knipscherr 2007), the main argument of this chapter is that seniors’ online communities have significant potential to enhance psychological well-being in later life. Preliminary
empirical support for this argument is provided.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Clinical Geropsychology
Pages970-989
StatePublished - 2014

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