Connecting and reconnecting: a phenomenological study of the meanings that extra care tenants attribute to using the internet for social contact

Jill Wales*, Glenda Cook, Catherine Bailey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper explores the perceptions and experiences of a group of extra care tenants, who, as novice internet users, began to maintain their social relationships online. Housing transitions in later life may jeopardise existing social relationships, leading to loneliness and social isolation. More recently, Covid-19 restrictions have limited familial face-to-face contact and wider social interactions. Thus extra care tenants, who are not already online, may benefit from acquiring internet skills. This paper aims to enhance understanding of the participants’ transition from novices to experienced internet users and the impact on their social relationships and sense of self.

Design/methodology/approach – A longitudinal, hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted over eight months in two extra care housing schemes in north east England. Ten participants (56-98 years) with age-related physical, sensory and cognitive losses were recruited to the study. A series of semi structured interviews and participant diaries captured. the participants’ experience as they developed internet skills and communicated online.

Findings - All participants, including a blind individual, learned to communicate online. Personalised adaptive strategies, peer support, training and management involvement. facilitated internet uptake. Participants felt their social relationships were supported and they regained biographical continuity, through being and feeling they belonged in the modern digital world.

Originality/value – The online experiences of extra care tenants are rarely voiced. Their perceptions may assist others to engage online, maintaining social connections which could otherwise be lost.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalHousing, Care and Support
Volume26
Issue number1
Early online date14 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2023

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