Online Leisure and Wellbeing in Later Life

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Vera GALLISTL, University of Vienna, Austria
Galit NIMROD, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Research has shown considerable evidence demonstrating positive associations between Internet use and subjective wellbeing(SWB) in later life (cf. Damant et al., 2016; Fosman & Nordmyr, 2015), arguing that Internet use may play a central role in successful ageing. Existing research, however, also includes conflicting findings that demonstrate no association or even negative associations between Internet use and SWB (cf. Berner et al., 2012; Matthews & Nazroo, 2015), which calls for a differentiated approach to the analysis of older adults’ Internet use and wellbeing.

Relying on recent research emphasizing the significance of online leisure (Lifshitz et al., 2016), this paper suggests three pathways towards a better understanding of the roles online leisure plays in older adults’ SWB: Simultaneous exploration of various online leisure activities, concurrent examination of both online and offline leisure activities; and differentiation among discrete subsegments of older Internet users.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of these three paths, we examine data collected in an online survey of media use among 814 Internet users aged 60 years and over. Results indicate that there are six factors of media-based leisure activities, two of which associate positively with users’ life satisfaction (online updates and offline content) and one negatively (offline radio). Analysis also identifies three groups of Internet users, based on the activities they engage in: Onliners, Offliners and Lighter Users. Despite differences in leisure involvement, these groups report similar life satisfaction. The groups’ background characteristics reflect a balancing mechanism wherein participation in certain online and offline activities compensates for distressing conditions to some extent.

Overall, this study suggests that the association between Internet use and SWB in later life depends on the functions the Internet serves for older users, its role in their overall media and leisure repertoire and various background variables affecting access to and competence in media use.