The Fourth Age: Human Information Behavior and successful Aging

Terryl Mitchell Asla

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    1404 Downloads (Pure)


    This two-year qualitative study adopted an interpretivist/constructivist framework and employed an ethnographic method to explore the HIB of residents in two independent living retirement communities located in the Midwestern US. The method consisted of semi-structured interviews with 25 participants selected using a variant of purposive sampling known as criterion sampling. Purposive selection is widely accepted in the research community for the kind of research I undertook (e.g., Patton, 2002; Johnson, Dunlap & Benoit, 2010). Outliers in the Third Age as well as in the extreme Fourth Age were included in the sample as a means of exploring the Fourth Age continuum. For purposes of triangulation, the interviews included a short, well-validated quantitative instrument to measure the participants' sense of successful aging. The data from the transcribed interviews and observation notes were then analyzed and separated into five themes and 18 categories.A key negative finding that emerged from the study was that information literacy skills diminish during the Fourth Age. Growing physical and cognitive losses make it increasingly difficult for members of the Fourth Age to use the technologies, such as computers and the Internet, that society is increasingly reliant upon to meet the information needs of everyone, including older adults. A key positive finding was that many of the participants were able to prolong existing information literacy skills given the proper motivation and support. This strategy for successful aging is described as compression of information illiteracy' in this study.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Mills, John, Co-Supervisor
    • Julien, Heidi, Co-Supervisor
    • Williamson, Kirsty, Principal Supervisor
    Award date06 May 2013
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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