Older Adults’ Information

Needs and Behavior

Authored by: Kirsty Williamson , Terry Asla

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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The proportion of older adults, usually defined as aged 60 or 65 and over, is expanding rapidly in the populations of many countries of the world, leading to the expectation that they should have growing importance from a research perspective. It is therefore surprising that there have been few substantial studies of the information needs and behaviors of this group, apart from research of which the principal focus is library services. This entry discusses the major studies that have been undertaken on the topic, mentioning library studies only where relevant. Library services are not part of the purview and are dealt with only briefly. The introduction discusses definitions of “older adults,” why there is an imperative for studying this large, diverse group and the role played by research with a library focus. The entry then examines what is known about human information behavior (HIB) in the context of everyday life information focusing particularly on information needs, the sources used to meet those needs and the role of residential context (for the very old and frail) where this is relevant. Where possible, the findings are discussed in terms of the three age groups into which older adults are sometimes divided: the young aged (60–74), the old–old (75–84), and the very old (85+). Recently, the concept of the Fourth Age has been introduced into the HIB field. The Fourth Age describes people who have multiple disabilities and are usually in the last stage of their lives. The physical, cognitive, and social losses of the Fourth Age have significant impact on HIB. Since computers and the Internet have now become such important tools in the information-seeking process, the next section of the entry focuses on these topics. The conclusion is that further research is needed, that people in the wide age span from 60 to 65 plus should not be treated as homogeneous in their needs, and that the Internet be included in future research but that it should be examined in the context of other sources of everyday life information.

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