Background: In a changing ageing society wherein older adults are increasingly expected to take care of themselves instead of relying on health care services, online community care platforms can help older adults to meet these expectations. A considerable number of these online community care platforms have been introduced in several European countries based on their potential. However, their actual impact is unclear.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the self-reported use, expectations, and perceived impact of a Dutch online community care platform called Grubbenvorst-Online among Dutch older adults. The following 2 questions were studied: (1) What is the self-reported use of Grubbenvorst-Online among older adults? (2) What are their expectations and perceived impact of Grubbenvorst-Online regarding local participation, their social network, mutual informal caregiving, and feelings of connectedness?
Methods: An observational pretest-posttest study was conducted. Participants were recruited via a web-based message on the Grubbenvorst-Online platform and data were collected via postal questionnaires among older users at the start of the study and 4 months later. Data regarding the expectations and the perceived impact of Grubbenvorst-Online were compared and tested.
Results: Forty-seven Grabbenvorst-Online users with an average age of 74 years participated in this study. They were healthy, predominantly "internet-skilled," and they found the internet important for maintaining social contacts. In general, the use of the online community care platform decreased during the 4-month follow-up period. The perceived impact of Grubbenvorst-Online was significantly lower than that expected regarding information provision (P=.003), seeking help from fellow villagers (P
Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that online community care platforms perhaps do not provide enough "added value" in their current form. We suggest a new direction in which online community care platforms primarily support existing offline initiatives aimed at stimulating local participation, informal caregiving, and feelings of connectedness.
- older adults
- online community
- online platform
- social network
- local participation
- informal caregiving