Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Internet Use of Consumers Aged 40 and Over: Factors That Influence Full Adoption

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Internet Use of Consumers Aged 40 and Over: Factors That Influence Full Adoption

Article excerpt

In many developed countries there has been a steep increase in the proportion of the population that is middle-aged and older. This has occurred at the same time as the rapid diffusion of the Internet (Ramón-Jerónimo, Peral-Peral, & Arenas-Gaitán, 2013). With the confluence of these two trends, consumers in the age group older than 40 years can enjoy benefits such as communication with their family and friends, information about health, opportunities for lifelong learning, and a variety of leisure activities (Wagner, Hassanein, & Head, 2010). These benefits associated with the Internet assist people aged 40 and over to maintain a healthy lifestyle, extend their social network, enhance their level of independence, and maintain their psychological well-being. However, adoption and usage rates of consumers aged over 40 are lower than those of people aged under 40 (Statistics Korea, 2012). This leads to what is known as the digital divide between generations. In an effort to diminish the digital divide, both governmental and nongovernmental organizations, such as Samsung, IBM, and Cisco, have implemented programs to provide computers and Internet access to people who are older, less educated, and less affluent, and those in less developed countries. However, providing computers and Internet access only leads to nonusers' initial adoption; it does not guarantee their full adoption (Hsieh, Rai, & Keil, 2008).

Each stage of the Internet adoption process is influenced by a variety of factors (Karahanna, Straub, & Chervany, 1999). Accordingly, we were motivated to uncover the factors that influence each stage of the Internet adoption process in a group of consumers aged between 40 and 70 years in Korea. To the best of our knowledge, no research has yet been conducted to identify and compare influential factors throughout the Internet adoption process in the case of consumers in the older adult age group. Therefore, our findings will facilitate an understanding of the big picture of the digital divide and assist in determining an effective remedy for this phenomenon.

Theoretical Background

Mature Consumers and the Internet

In this study we defined mature consumers as those aged 40 years or older. In spite of the many benefits provided by the Internet, mature consumers are reportedly less likely to adopt or continue to use the Internet and are considered one of the most disadvantaged groups (comprising, for example, low income families, those with low levels of education or literacy, people in isolated areas, people with disabilities) within the digital divide (Chu, 2010). As new technologies based on the Internet are continually being introduced, mature consumers, who at present already lag behind younger generations in terms of Internet use, might become "cut off from the modern society" (Choudrie, Ghinea, & Songonuga, 2013, p. 2). In addition, digitally excluded mature consumers might be disadvantaged because they are unable to access Internet application services, such as mobile health and social networking services. Therefore, governments in many developed nations have taken measures to ensure that mature consumers and other digitally excluded people have access to an Internet connection, but Internet access alone cannot deliver benefits if mature consumers have negative opinions about the Internet (Ramón-Jerónimo et al., 2013). In addition, Wagner et al. (2010) found that consumers aged over 45 have different perceptions from the younger population because of the physical and cognitive changes that result from aging. These differences mean that research is necessary to address negative beliefs and perceptions that some mature consumers have regarding the Internet (Choudrie et al., 2013). For these reasons, it is not surprising that much research has been conducted on mature consumers' behavior in regard to Internet adoption and use, including physical, economic, social, and psychological factors. …

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