Background: Although much is known about communication patterns of young people, communication habits of older people still seem to be to be a neglected area of research. This seems surprising considering the great importance of information exchange, especially for this age group. Communication enables older people to participate in social life and thus can prevent loneliness and isolation.
Methods: After conducting a systematic literature search a questionnaire was designed to assess possible factors influencing the use of the internet for communication reasons. 150 persons aged 60 years and older were asked about socio-demographic information, conversation durations and dialogue partners. Additionally, participants were asked about subjective advantages and disadvantages of internet communication.
Results: Almost 50 % of the participants reported using the internet for communication (mainly e-mail). In particular, the socio-demographic factors age, gender and education influenced the use of internet for communication. Besides socio-demographic factors, we demonstrated that daily telephone use influences the use of the internet for communication. Contrary to our expectations, family situation, mobility and size of living area had no impact in this study-sample.
Conclusion: Using the internet for communication can be a possible solution to some of the problems many older people have to face, such as loneliness and isolation. Currently, the internet is used by only a small part of older adults. In order to strengthen internet communication in older people, it is necessary to know about factors influencing the use of internet for communication.
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