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Reading: Belonging in the Online World: Older Adults’ Use of Internet for Community.


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Belonging in the Online World: Older Adults’ Use of Internet for Community.


Belinda Grace Fuss ,

The University of Adelaide, AU
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Diana Dorstyn,

Hughes Building, North Terrace, AU
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Lynn Ward

Hughes Building, North Terrace, AU
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Objective: To explore older Australians’ experiences of using computer-mediated communication (CMC) to engage with their social networks and communities.

Background: Use of CMC among older adults has been associated with favourable social outcomes.  How older adults engage with others to foster these outcomes is less well known.  Understanding this may be useful when developing programs to encourage older adults’ use of CMC for social purposes.

Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews with 12 adults (five women, seven men; aged 69 to 81) were conducted. Interview questions focused on individuals’ use of CMC to engage with online communities. Data were transcribed and thematically analysed.

Results: Two overarching themes relating to a sense of Belonging and Support emerged.  Belonging was most heavily emphasised, and included subthemes on how participants experienced their close social networks online, as well as their broader engagement with building interests and identity.  Support arose to a lesser extent, and included subthemes relating to how CMC was used not only for the provision and receipt of such, but also to signal availability or need for support.  Throughout, participants consistently weighed the benefits of CMC against the disadvantages.

Conclusion: The findings highlight the importance of social networks and online communities for older adults and, in particular, how CMC facilitates feelings of belongingness and provides opportunities for reciprocal instrumental, emotional, and informational support.  Future research needs to consider the importance of having a sense of belonging when describing the social functioning of digitally literate older adults.

How to Cite: Fuss, B.G., Dorstyn, D. and Ward, L., 2021. Belonging in the Online World: Older Adults’ Use of Internet for Community.. Journal of Social Inclusion, 12(2), pp.3–29. DOI:
Published on 12 Nov 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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