Annotated Bibliography
Information Needs and Information Seeking Behavior of the Elderly

The information needs and information seeking behavior of the elderly have been thoroughly documented and researched by a variety of professionals within the field. These needs and behaviors are unique and the information provided through these studies and reports listed below allow for greater inspection into how these needs might actually be met. The elderly comprise a large segment of the total population and an even larger section of the total demographic of library patrons. These numbers are set to dramatically increase with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. The simple fact remains that people are living longer, healthier, more active lives. With this longevity comes a greater demand for information relevant to their needs. As much as can be predicted, further research will be conducted as the elderly user group continues to expand. Current research in this field is extensive, with relevant examples listed below.

Entry 1

Anerson, L., Luster, L., Woolridge, P. (1992). Reading needs of older readers:
A survey. Wilson Library Bulletin, 67(3), 41-44. Retrieved November 14, 2004 from ERIC

Describes a survey undertaken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that examined the readings interests and information needs of older adults. The survey was in the form of a questionnaire and the questions related to a variety of topics, such as reading habits, topics of interest, methods of obtaining reading materials, sources of information, use of libraries, and library services they hope to see implemented. The subject group surveyed were consistent readers and more likely to use existing library services. Of the survey group, 74% of the respondents classified themselves as daily readers. However, only 25% of the older adults surveyed said they borrowed books from the library on a consistent basis. Topics of interest were discussed, ranging from health information to nonfiction and fiction sources. Recommendations included possible outreach services to allow older adults greater access to existing library materials.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: Dialog [ERIC]
ss (elderl? OR senior?(W)citizen?) AND librar?(2N)use?

Entry 2

Furlong, J., Gorard, S., Madden, L., Selwyn, N. (2003). Older adults’ use of
information and communications technology in everyday life. Ageing & Society, 23, 561-
582. Retrieved November 12, 2004, from Cambridge Journals Online database.

Describes a study of 352 older adults in England and Wales. The study mentions that computer use is not a significant activity among those questioned. The author describes the potential for computers as they related to bridging technology gaps. 44 % of those studies were male and 56% were female. Results displayed that different variables were present, such as economics, age, marital status, and educational background. Results further showed that access, whether through possession of technology or through association with someone who possesses such technology, is a significant factor in determining user satisfaction and involvement. Surprisingly, access to technology does not always strongly correlate with use of technology, as evident by this particular study. The author concludes with recommendations for the government and other organizations providing services and information technology. Furthermore, a call for increased support for domestic rather than community information and communications technology resources is raised.

Method(s) of Searching: Citation Searching
Search Strategy: Reference in Selwyn, N. (2004). The information aged:
A qualitative study of older adults’ use of information
and communications technology. Journal of Aging Studies,
18, 369-384.

Entry 3

Kubeck, J. E., Miller-Albrecht, S.A., Murphy, M.D. (1999). Finding information
on the World Wide Web: Exploring older adults’ exploration. Educational Gerontology, 25
(2), 167-183. Retrieved November 24, 2004, from Wilson Fulltext database.

Describes a study of 29 older adults and their Internet searching behavior. The older adults’ results were contrasted against those of 30 younger adults. Both groups were asked to perform similar tasks and the results were shown to be affected according to the amount of previous experience the individual might have had in performing tasks on the Internet. The results also displayed that older adults were less efficient than their younger counterparts, requiring an average of eight more steps to complete a given task on the Internet. However, the gap between the two groups narrowed with each successive task performed. The study found that older adults held positive attitudes towards the Internet and technology before and after the study was conducted. The author concludes with a discussion of possible future trends for older adults and their Internet use.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: HW Wilson Fulltext
Advanced Search
Keyword: search* and older adult* and stud*

Entry 4

Meyer, B., Sit, R.A., Spaulding, V.A., Mead, S.E., Walker, N. (1997). Age group
differences in World Wide Web navigation. Proceedings of the ACM CHI ‘97Conference:
Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2, 295-296. Retrieved
November 24, 2004, from

Describes a study of 13 older adults and 7 younger adults in which participants were asked to complete a series of tasks on the World Wide Web. None of the participants in the study had previous World Wide Web experience although all had limited experience with the basic operating procedures of the computer and mouse. The study involved 9 tasks, with each participant given ten minutes to perform each task. The younger adult group required considerably fewer steps to complete each task than the older adult group. Older adult participants were far more likely to return to the home page before moving on to the next task, thereby reducing the efficiency of the search. Other results involved older adults use of the spacebar to navigate through web pages rather than the scroll bar, extending the amount of time spent on any given task. However, the results showed that all older adult participants were able to complete each task in the allotted time. The authors conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research on future design interfaces and training.

Method(s) of Searching: Author Search
Search Strategy:
Author: R Sit

Entry 5

Morrell, R.W., Mayhorn, C.B., Bennett, J. (2000). A survey of World Wide Web use
in middle-aged and older adults. Human Factors, 42, 175-182. Retrieved November 28,
2004, from HW Wilson Fulltext database.

Describes a study designed to establish World Wide Web use patterns in middle-aged, young old, and old-old adults. The study included 550 adults sampled from a group in Southeastern Michigan, with a response rate of 71%. The study was conducted in the form of a questionnaire mailed to the participants polling their opinions concerning methods for searching the Internet, general attitudes towards the Internet, along with demographic information. The results showed that distinct differences existed between the various groups being questioned. However, the middle-aged and old group were similar in their use patterns. The old-old group was the least interested in using the Internet and suffered the most difficulties in attempting to employ such technology to meet their information needs. The study concluded with a discussion of the fact that age alone does not determine Internet use.

Method(s) of Searching Author Search
Search Strategy Google Scholar
Author Search: RW Morrell

Entry 6

Robertson, G. (2001). Seniors: what they want and what they get in Canada’s
Public Libraries. Feliciter, 47(6), 304-306. Retrieved November 12, 2004, from Library
Literature and Information Science database.

Describes interview conducted with a collection of elderly patrons of the Vancouver Public Library and their needs and subsequent recommendations. The elderly patrons interviewed for this article mention a need for greater awareness in the construction of library facilities, such as handrails and proper restrooms. The responses collected focused on the physical features of a library and how these features affect the elderly.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: Dialog [Library Literature and Information Science]
ss (elderly or senior(W)citizen?) and librar?

Entry 7

Selwyn, N. (2004). The information aged: A qualitative study of older adults’ use
of information and communications technology. Journal of Aging Studies,
18, 369-384. Retrieved November 28, 2004, from Cambridge Journals Online

Describes a study based on the assumption that older adults should be making more use of information and communications technology to further their user needs. The study is based on interviews with 35 older adults discussing their adoption and use of communications technology. Results from the interviews are included, many of which deal with older adults’ perceptions towards communications technology. Older adults repeatedly mentioned the potential for such technology, while simultaneously expressing difficulty incorporating this technology into existing user behavior. Discusses the notion that the majority of older adults fall into the category of non-users. This is especially true in regards to basic functioning and use of information and communications technology. Of special note was the positive correlation between the workplace and the incorporation into technological frameworks. Specific user needs of older adults are discussed.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: Cambridge Journals Online
Advanced Search
Full text: information and older adults

Entry 8

Sit, R. A. (1998). Online library catalog search performance by older adult
users. Library & Information Science Research, 20(2), 115-131. Retrieved
November 22, 2004, from Cambridge Journals Online database.

Describes a study of 54 older adult library patrons and their use of online library catalogs to achieve information needs. The functions of older adult users were analyzed according to conceptual knowledge, semantic knowledge, and technical skills. The participants in the study were required to perform a set of nine search tasks that required six different functions. Participants were also required to complete a questionnaire concerning information on gender, age, ethnicity, language, educational level, and past experience using online library catalogs. The participants consisted of regular library patrons, with 57% using the library weekly and 33% monthly. However, computer experience was limited, with only 28% using computer technology daily. Conclusions reached were that older adult users remained permanent novices. Furthermore, deficiencies existed in conceptual and semantic knowledge. Finally, the author indicated that online library catalogs are often not accessible to some older adult users.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: Dialog[Library Literature and Information Science]
ss librar? AND older(W)adult? AND use?

Entry 9

Street, P. (1994). National Provision to the elderly in public libraries:
Preliminary results of a postal survey conducted in 1993 [Electronic Version]. Library
Management, 15(8), 28-32. Retrieved November 12, 2004, from ABI/Inform database.

Describes the results of a survey conducted in 1993 in England to define and address the needs of elderly library patrons. The survey was conducted by mail in the form of a questionnaire. 110 local authorities were surveyed and 68 were completed for a response rate of 62 percent. The surveys attempted to establish what types of services were being offered for the specific needs of elderly patrons.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: Dialog [ABI/Inform]
ss (elderly or senior(W)citizen?) and librar?/ti

Entry 10

White, J., Weatherall, A. (2000). A grounded theory analysis of older adults
and information technology. Educational Gerontology, 26(4), 371-386.
Retrieved November 27, 2004, from HW Wilson database.

Describes a study of six older adults who were involved with SeniorNet in Wellington, New Zealand. All of the participants considered themselves to be moderately computer proficient, with one participant knowledgeable in several programming languages. The participants were interviewed to determine their experience with Information Technology (IT), their opinions towards computers, and their specific experiences with and opinions of the Internet. Results showed that the use of computer technology was related to outside interests and hobbies. For example, genealogy proved to be a popular information pursuit with the sample group. Also, mental and social stimulation, in the form of Information Technology, were seen by the group as necessary for positive aging. According to the results, cost, to a large extent, influenced use or non-use of Information Technology. The participants viewed the computer as a tool to assist them in fulfilling perceived needs. All of the participants viewed the computer as an important means of communicating with friends and family. The participants displayed a positive attitude towards Information Technology. The author concludes with a discussion of the implications of these results for older adults and their specific needs in terms of design and accessibility.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: HW Wilson Fulltext
Advanced Search
Keyword: information and older adult* and stud*

Entry 11

Wicks, D. (2004). Older adults and their information seeking . Behavioral and
Social Sciences Librarian, 22(2), 1-26. Retrieved November 4, 2004, from LITA database.

Describes a study conducted in 1998-1999 and 2000-2001 that analyzed the information
seeking behavior of older adults. The study differentiated between the “old-old” and the “young-old.” The study focused on the differences between these groups as it related to their information seeking behavior. The article discussed the previous literature on the subject, noting that much of it revolves around services to the elderly rather than the needs of the elderly. The demographic information of the participants in the study is mentioned, noting differences in educational and economic background. Questions involving media sources, computer use, library use, and subsequent frustrations were asked to both of the study groups. Concluding remarks called for further study of libraries and the way their collections affect the elderly. Special mention was made of communicative ability in determining the information seeking and information needs of the elderly.

Method(s) of Searching: Keyword Searching
Search Strategy: LITA
Keyword: (elderly or aged or older adult*) and
(information or use*) and (need* or behavior)

Entry 12

Williamson, K. (1998). Discovered by chance: The role of incidental information
acquisition in an ecological model of information use. Library and Information Science
Research, 20(1), 23-40. Retrieved November 20, 2004, from Cambridge Journals Online

Described the incidental information acquisition and information-seeking behavior of a group of 202 older adults from Melbourne and surrounding rural areas in Victoria in Australia. The study also focused on telecommunications as it relates to the information seeking behavior of older adults. The 202 respondents recorded their telephone traffic over a two-week period. The second part of the study involved an interview to determine situations where the respondents had searched for information. Results showed that incidental information acquisition from personal sources often took place through the telephone. The interviews demonstrated that health issues were predominant, along with financial issues, reflecting that 62% of the sample group were living on a government pension to some degree. Information sources were discussed, with family and friends ranked as the most frequently used. The author concludes that information is obtained while attending to perceived needs as well as incidentally through the monitoring of daily routines.

Method(s) of Searching: Author Searching
Search Strategy: Cambridge Journals Online
Advanced Search
Author text: williamson k

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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