Many public libraries offer introductory computer classes to help “bridge the digital divide” – to train people to use computers and to give them access to the internet. This is important because many health resources, government resources and applications, and job applications are now only available online. This technology training and access to the internet enables people to get the information that they need. However, two recent articles in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health pointed out additional benefits of technology training for older adults:
Shapira, Barak, & Gal (2007) described a study in which a group of older adults from elderly day care centers and from nursing homes were taught to use computers and the internet. These older adults scored significantly higher than control groups in life satisfaction, depression, loneliness and self-control. Shapira et al. (2007) reported that “Computer and Internet use seems to contribute to older adults' well-being and sense of empowerment by affecting their interpersonal interactions, promoting their cognitive functioning and contributing to their experience of control and independence.”(p. 1360).
Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) set up an in home intervention program where handicapped and chronically ill older adults were taught to use computers and the internet in their homes. Then, the participants were tested for loneliness. They showed a significant decrease in loneliness compared to the control group. These older adults used the internet to communicate with others via email and this increased their social contact. Fokkema and Knipscheer (2007) found that using the internet gave people something to think about other than their loneliness and it also increased their self confidence.
These studies show the impact that technology training can have for older adults. It would be great for libraries to partner with adult day care facilities and nursing homes to bring technology training to older adults who can not come to a library for computer classes.
Fokkema, T. & Knipscheer, K. (2007). Escape loneliness by going digital: A quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a Dutch experiment in using ECT to overcome loneliness among older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/13607860701366129.
Shapira, N., Barak, A. & Gal, I. (2007). Promoting older adults’ well-being through Internet training and use. Aging & Mental Health, 11 (5), 1360-7863. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/13607860601086546.