Interactive Video Communication Technology and Successful Aging in Place

This study utilized the theoretical framework of selective optimization with compensation (SOC) (Baltes, 1987; Baltes & Baltes, 1990) to interpret older adults' definitions about successful aging in place. Factors contributing to successful aging in place, including the importance of social interaction and perceptions of the usefulness of interactive video communication technology (IVC) for achieving optimal levels of social interaction and successful aging in place, were also determined. Data were collected using a questionnaire, home-observation checklist, seven-day social interaction diary, and in-depth interviews. The sample consisted of 14 women and four men who were over 75 years of age and living in their own homes. The participants were predominantly white, educated, mobile, and in good health. All participants declared that they would like to continue living in their own homes as long as possible. More than two-thirds had lived for over 30 years in their homes. Three major themes emerged from this study: successful aging in place, social interaction, and usefulness of IVC for aging in place. Participants' definitions of successful aging in place included factors related to health, mobility, independence, control, solitude, affordability, comfort, and social interactions. Social interactions represented, in the respondents' opinions, a major factor for successful aging in place. The participants had an active social life, employing a variety of social communication means, from face-to-face interactions and telephone to computers. Their social activities included club memberships, church activities, informal interactions with family members and friends, and formal interactions, especially with health care providers. The participants in this study did not perceive the IVC technology as important for their aging in place in their current situations. However, the participants admitted that the IVC could be a useful tool for people with limited health and mobility to allow them to maintain social interactions and successfully age in place. The interpretation of the findings is as follows: at their actual level of activity and mobility, the participants selected particular ways of communication and optimized these means. The IVC was perceived as a compensation mechanism to be used when other communication means fail due to health and mobility problems.

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