The role of the Internet in later life autonomy: Silver surfers in Spain


Carmen Llorente-Barroso, María Sánchez-Valle & Mónica Viñarás-Abad

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Humanit Soc Sci Commun (Springer Nature)
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The new digital panorama has enhanced the importance of the Internet, as well as Information and Communications Technology (ICT), in developing a society in which seniors play a proactive role. The main purpose of this article is to define a taxonomy of silver surfers according to the ways they use the Internet and ICT, with a special focus on e-commerce and e-government. A quantitative methodology was used, based on the study of 405 Spanish internet users between 60 and 79 years of age, which was conducted by telephone in February of 2019. Seven groups were identified through a combination of dimensionality reduction techniques and cluster analysis. The results indicate neither a consistent pattern in the specific ways older adults use the Internet nor a homogeneous level of digital knowledge among this demographic group. To some extent, this is a result of disparities in both the perception of digital security that seniors associate with e-commerce and/or e-government and the level of trust engendered by such operations. The Able and Daring are the most numerous clusters, which coincide with the categories of the most active and prepared users. The Sceptical take third place in terms of number of users, as they display limited use of the Internet and claim to have a low digital skills level. However, carrying out both online shopping and administrative procedures without the need for assistance is becoming increasingly frequent among all of those surveyed.

Keywords: Digital divide, ageing, seniors, older adults, ICTs, Internet, cluster analysis, internet user profiles, silver surfers, e-commerce, e-government.

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