Older adults' experiences with computer technology
Schlag, Paul Alan
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This study examines older adultsÕ experiences with computer technology. It is proposed that computer use may help older adults age successfully with regards to subjective well-being, EriksonÕs stages of generativity and ego-integration and the developmental tasks of later life. Selective optimization with compensation (SOC) acts as a framework for understanding seniorsÕ motivations for computer use and their negotiation of the obstacles faced in learning to use computer technology. Case study methodology was used to understand seven older adultsÕ experiences with computer technology. The research setting for the study was a municipal senior center SeniorNet Program in Northeast Georgia. The final report shares the experiences of these seniors concerning their involvement with SeniorNet, experience with computers, how they learned to use computers, how they currently use computers, and how they plan to use computers. Further, the treatise tells of the problems or negative experiences they have had with computer technology, how relationships were affected by computers and what impact computer technology has had on their later lives. The study found that the older adults in this study used the processes of selective optimization and compensation in learning to use computers. Their attitudes and beliefs largely determined how active they were in using and learning to use computer technology. Further, they used SOC processes to negotiate the problems they faced in learning to use computers. Similarly, they used SOC processes and computers as a tool to negotiate later life tasks. Thus, computer use in the lives of these seniors contributed to their sense of successful aging. The findings of this research have implications for seniors and for those who provide computer education to them. It is essential to match the skill level of the learner to the learning activityÕs challenge in providing computer education. Providing choice and meaningful activities can also increase learner motivation. Further, senior centers should provide free access to computer labs for seniors and develop programs that are developmentally beneficial. Finally, although computer use can be used maladaptively, the participants in this study used computer technology mostly for benefit in their lives. Therefore, we can learn from their lives and experiences.
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