Falling off the bandwagon? Exploring the challenges to sustained digital engagement by older people

Objectives: This study examines older people's use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and identifies the factors which can prevent or promote their sustained use. Methods: A mixed methods approach was adopted. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected by a survey of 323 older ICT users (aged ≥50 years) between 2011 and 2012. These data were supplemented by qualitative data obtained through in-depth interviews, focus groups and storytelling. Quantitative data were analysed using PASW including bivariate and multivariate analyses. Qualitative data were analysed using an inductive, thematic approach. Results: The findings show that, contrary to some stereotypes, many older people are enthusiastic, competent and confident users of ICTs. However, they report a range of challenges in reaching and maintaining this situation. These include technological complexity and change, age-related capability changes and a lack of learning and support mechanisms. Intrinsic motivation and social support are important in enabling older people to overcome these challenges. Discussion: Getting older people online has been a high priority in many countries over the past decade. However, little attention has been paid to whether and how their usage can be sustained over time. We discuss the implications of the findings for policy and practice. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.