This research seeks to better understand how older people living in sparsely populated areas learn and then use eHealth applications in their everyday lives. The study was conducted in northern Sweden and Lapland in northern Finland, the most sparsely populated areas in these countries. The study focused on the use of following eHealth services: a medication-dispensing service, a virtual health room and a self-monitoring system. Research data were collected through semi-structured interviews and observations. The study included 19 participants, aged from 63 to 89 years. The following research questions guided the study: In what ways was the respondents’ learning and use of the eHealth service a social practice? How are such practices affected by cultural identities? The results show that digital self-care technologies can be very user friendly, easy to use, and sometimes, require very little learning effort from older users. However, the results also show that engaging in eHealth and learning how to use digital self-help services requires constant learning of different competences, not just digital but also competences that are medical and administrative. In addition, the use of eHealth required support from the respondents’ children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. Therefore, the digital self-care technologies contributed to a broader redistribution of responsibility from individual users and health and social care to informal support networks surrounding the respondents. Finally, the results indicated that respondents’ motives for learning and using the digital services often expressed cultural identities that affected such conceptions.
Field of science
- Social policy