Internet use by elders : a survey at Alzheimer Café

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Senior couple having a video chat on digital tablet at home

The Alzheimer Café (AC) in Pécs (Hungary) has been created to support people affected by and/or interested in dementia as part of the broader international volunteer network of ACs.

People coming to the monthly gatherings of AC are interested in learning, discussing, exchanging information and sharing experiences on dementia and to socialize and meet with others. Attending an AC is free of charge, no prior selection is made. ACs take the form of ‘a social gathering’ in a café-like setting where people meet and discuss freely and easily. People come and go as they please, just like at a Café bar.

AC’s main mission is to help and support people with dementia and their family, friends and caregivers. ICT4Life partners from the University of Pécs (UPECS) are closely collaborating with AC and invited various professionals to speak on their respective fields related to dementia.

On 19 January,  the ICT4Life project was presented to the public at the Alzheimer Café in Pécs. Attendees were mostly people directly or indirectly affected by dementia, who count as a main target group of the project. UPECS ICT4Life partners took this opportunity to circulate a survey on IT literacy and internet usage patterns by elders. The questionnaire also investigated the attitude of the target group towards to use of electronic, mainly internet-based equipment.

The total number of people from the target group was 26. The average age of survey respondents was 65 years, among them about three-quarters were married, some 15% had dementia, and half of the respondents was affected by dementia through a family member.

Replies to the survey showed that the majority of regular attendees uses the Internet or internet-based applications or equipment. 15% of the respondents do not go online at all, while almost two-thirds browse the Internet on a daily basis, even three-quarters are online for 1-2 hours a day. As for equipment, computer (70%) and smart-phones (35%) are the main tools used to go online. 62% of respondents use electronic mail and 42% use social applications (such as Skype) as well. As for types of websites, information and news portals (50%), open forums (50%), and social networking sites (38%) are the most frequently visited. Professional healthcare (8%) and mental health (15%) pages and web sites are much less known and only 12% of respondents ever visited reliable and professionally verified pages.

In summary, our – not representative – pilot survey revealed that a significant portion of the elderly uses the Internet, nearly two-third use internet-based applications or equipment on a daily base, though there is a significant difference between genders. In all aspects, females are more likely to use internet-based applications or equipment than males.
However, medical/health applications are less known, therefore it would be important to develop and disseminate disease-specific healthcare applications as they may significantly relieve the burden caused by chronic diseases, such as dementia and may improve the quality of life of patients, caregivers and family members.

As it is evident that females are more open to use new applications or equipment than males, it is important to employ special methods to promote the use of ICT equipment among males.

Author: University of Pécs, Hungary
www.pte.hu

 

Picture created by Creativeart – Freepik.com

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