Uses and Gratifications of Computers in South African Elderly People




Uses and gratifications, older adults, computer use, social networking sites, social media, Internet


Drawing on in-depth interviews conducted with residents at an old-aged home in Cape Town, South Africa, this study examines the main uses and gratifications elderly people get from computers. While the research focus in Africa has been on the health of elderly people, particularly with respect to HIV/AIDS, there is little research into their adoption of new technologies, as the research focus with respect to that topic has been primarily on youth. This study found that the participants use email and social media to maintain contact with family and friends outside of, and sometimes even within the neighborhood. Furthermore, keeping in contact involved not only communication, but also observation of activities - like news, photographs and discussions. Using a uses and gratifications framework, this study found that participants felt connected with society both through their communication with and observation of people, and through keeping themselves informed about news and current interest topics. By using the Internet the elderly people communicated with more people than they had before. Some of the participants felt less isolated and lonely because of their computer use. Nevertheless, use of computers did not weaken their interpersonal contact outside of computer use..