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Growing old in the digital era: a qualitative study of internet use and outcomes among urban Indian older adults

Nidhi Bansal (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur, Jaipur, India)
Heena Choudhary (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur, Jaipur, India)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 2 October 2023

213

Abstract

Purpose

This study acknowledges the existing digital divide in India, particularly for marginalised populations, and highlights the need for exceptional attention to address their unique needs, challenges and demands. Although previous research and policies have primarily focused on physical access and internet skills, this study shifts the focus to the outcomes of internet use. By understanding how older adults in marginalised communities incorporate the internet into their daily routines, this study aims to contribute to the development of an operational framework that charts the disadvantages of the digital divide.

Design/methodology/approach

The study draws from Helsper’s (2015) internet outcomes framework to identify the outcomes that older adults can derive from being online. By using a qualitative approach, the study seeks to understand how educational and economic backgrounds influence internet usage among older adults and how this can promote advantageous internet use.

Findings

The findings indicate that highly educated individuals are more likely to experience positive outcomes across various societal domains than their less educated counterparts. However, it was observed that the highly educated participants also try to limit the impact of internet use on their personal lives by intentionally disconnecting from the internet whenever possible.

Research limitations/implications

By offering programmes and interventions to encourage internet use and improve digital skills, as well as by enhancing digital accessibility and incentive systems, the government should go forward with its plan to close the outcomes gap in internet use among older adults. For policymakers, it turns the spotlight on creating an environment conducive to the digital inclusion of older adults, consistent with sociocultural structures.

Originality/value

This study contributes to understanding the nuanced dynamics of internet use among older adults, shedding light on the role of educational background and sociocultural factors in shaping internet outcomes. It highlights the need to consider qualitative approaches in digital inequality research to capture the complexities underlying the digital divide.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge all the participants in this study for providing highly valuable data to accomplish the present study.

Citation

Bansal, N. and Choudhary, H. (2023), "Growing old in the digital era: a qualitative study of internet use and outcomes among urban Indian older adults", Working with Older People, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-08-2023-0032

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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