Background and Purpose: The use of informational communication technology (ICT) has become an indispensable part of modern life. It affects social connection and social participation. Use of ICT has also become one of the indicators of active aging. The purpose of this study was to examine the use of Internet by middle-aged and older adults and the related factors in the community.
Method: The data of this study was from the project, “Successful aging intervention and evaluation: cross-disciplinary, spreadable, and lifelong learning approach” supported by Ministry of Science and Technology in 2016-2018. The participants were the middle-aged and older adults in the several community care centers in Taichung. The data were collected by face-to-face interview. The data used in this study was the 123 persons whose data were completed related to internet use behaviors. The analysis methods included descriptive analysis, Chi-square test, and logistic regression analysis. The researcher also used in-depth qualitative interview of 14 older adults about the reasons of use or non-use of Internet as well as the barriers in using Internet.
Result: 21.9% of the sample used Internet. The rural older adults had lower possibility to use Internet than the urban older adults (OR=0.25); and those who were older (aged 75 or more) also used less (OR=0.19). By the qualitative interviews, the main motivations to use the Internet included increasing interactions and relationships with children and grandchildren, training their brains to prevent degradation, and tlearning new things from younger generations. The main reasons for reluctance to use the Internet included physical conditions (such as visual health and cognitive impairment) and psychosocial factors (barriers in learning and understanding or negative impressions on the internet). In addition, for the elders who were willing to learn, the major obstacles in learning process were personal physical conditions, operating skills, and lack of available devices (cell phones or tablets).
Discussion: The gap between urban and rural areas and generations is an important factor influencing the internet usage behavior of middle-aged and older people. The health status of the older people may also be related. The urban-rural divide in the Internet may be related with the differences in the economic status and the level of education, and accordingly affects the obtainment and acceptance in technological information. The Internet use is expected to increase for the future cohorts. It is suggested that the interface and the environment of using Internet should be friendly for the current older cohorts.