Author(s): Choi NG, Dinitto DM
Abstract Share this page
Abstract BACKGROUND: Internet technology can provide a diverse array of online resources for low-income disabled and homebound older adults to manage their health and mental health problems and maintain social connections. Despite many previous studies of older adults' Internet use, none focused on these most vulnerable older adults. OBJECTIVE: This study examined Internet use patterns, reasons for discontinued use, eHealth literacy, and attitudes toward computer/Internet use among low-income homebound individuals aged 60 and older in comparison to their younger counterparts-homebound adults under age 60. METHODS: Face-to-face or telephone surveys were conducted with 980 recipients of home-delivered meals in central Texas (78\% were age 60 years and older and 22\% under age 60). The eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) and the efficacy and interest subscales of the Attitudes Toward Computer/Internet Questionnaire (ATC/IQ) were used to measure the respective constructs. Age groups were compared with chi-square tests and t tests. Correlates of Internet use were analyzed with multinomial logistic regression, and correlates of eHEALS and ATC/IQ scores were analyzed with OLS regression models. RESULTS: Only 34\% of the under-60 group and 17\% of the 60 years and older group currently used the Internet, and 35\% and 16\% of the respective group members reported discontinuing Internet use due to cost and disability. In addition to being older, never users were more likely to be black (OR 4.41; 95\% CI 2.82-6.91, P<.001) or Hispanic (OR 4.69; 95\% CI 2.61-8.44, P<.001), and to have lower incomes (OR 0.36; 95\% CI 0.27-0.49, P<.001). Discontinued users were also more likely to be black or Hispanic and to have lower incomes. Among both age groups, approximately three-fourths of the current users used the Internet every day or every few days, and their eHEALS scores were negatively associated with age and positively associated with frequency of use. Among the 60 and older group, a depression diagnosis was also negatively associated with eHEALS scores. ATC/IQ efficacy among never users of all ages and among older adults was positively associated with living alone, income, and the number of medical conditions and inversely associated with age, Hispanic ethnicity, and Spanish as the primary language. Although ATC/IQ interest among older adults was also inversely associated with age, it was not associated with Hispanic ethnicity and Spanish as the primary language. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to describe in detail low-income disabled and homebound adults' and older adults' Internet use. It shows very low rates of Internet use compared to the US population, either due to lack of exposure to computer/Internet technology; lack of financial resources to obtain computers and technology; or medical conditions, disabilities, and associated pain that restrict use. Recommendations to reduce the digital divide among these individuals are provided.
This article was published in J Med Internet Res
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy