Enhancing the wellbeing of the elderly: social use of digital technologies in aged care
As developed countries struggle to find suitable living arrangements for their ageing populations, many elderly citizens are becoming increasingly marginalized and isolated. In similar circumstances, younger people would use digital technologies to stay occupied and connected, but few elderly citizens have this capability. Our research investigates the ways that the social wellbeing of elderly citizens can be enhanced by their use of information and communications technologies (ICT), particularly digital technologies, wherever they reside. A two-year action research study of the social use of ICT by residents in aged-care facilities was conducted in order to determine how developing digital capabilities could enhance their wellbeing. Research interventions included the establishment of computer kiosks in aged-care facilities and weekly classes for developing ICT skills. As their digital capability improved, many of the elderly residents were observed to engage in meaningful computer-based activities of their own choosing. A set of themes among these activities were identified, namely: connection, self-worth/esteem and personal development, productivity, occupation, self-sufficiency, being in control, and enjoyment. Our results are consistent with recently reported domains of social wellbeing among recipients of community-based aged-care services, namely (1) social participation and involvement, (2) occupation, (3) control over daily life and (4) dignity.