Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2014, 2, 109-115
Published Online September 2014 in SciRes.
How to cite this paper: Zou, C.F. and Zhou, P. (2014) Analyzing Information Needs of Elderly People: A Survey in Chinese
Rural Community. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 109-115.
Analyzing Information Needs of Elderly
People: A Survey in Chinese Rural
Chunfang Zou1, Ping Z hou2,3
1School of business administration, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Nanchang, China
2School of Information Technology, Jia ngxi University of Finance and Economics, N anchan g, China
3Jiangxi Key Laboratory of Data and Knowledge Engineering, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics,
Nanchang, China
Received **** 2014
A survey about the information needs of elderly people could find out the information required to
address the needs of the aged in a community. A naly zi ng d ata collec ted from 600 elderly people
through field inves tig ati on wi th a q uest ionn aire in a rural community in central China, the results
show that the preferred information format of the majority of age d people is audio and/or visual
info rma ti on product, espec ially audi o product. Most of the a ged people stated that they were in
need of healthy and medical non-educatio nal audio inform ati on products. The survey maybe lead
to improved and expanded inform ati on services for respondents who are short of such services,
including Publi c broadcasting ser vices , ext endi ng the audiovisu al colle cti on, lo aning audiovisuals,
religious faith audiovisuals and others p rovidi ng n eeded i nfo rm at i on to them. In summary, this
paper assembles vie ws on what th e elderly people currently nee d to be helpe d by both practition-
ers and researchers in the elderly people services domain.
Information Needs, Elderly People, Ch inese Ru r a l Com muni ty
1. Introduction
The information needs of the elderly population, particular ly in rural areas, have scarcely been investigated by
researchers and are very poorly covered in the literatures of information science. Many researchers and com-
mentators over the past thre e decades have noted a lack of inv estigatio n in these areas and consequent exiguous
knowledge about this kind of topic. Zuo meiyun, Liu qingqing and Liu fang (200 9) [1 ], Jiang lihua, Hua ng jia-
cheng (2011) [2] and Zhu xiuj ie (2012) [3 ] dr aw attention either to how little be known about such needs or to
the necessity of learning more. Meager coverage in the related literatures should not obscure the importance of
research on elderlyinformation needs in rural district, especially in terms of its contribution towards a more ef-
C. F. Zou, P. Zhou
fective tailoring of the content of information services and systems to meet the eld erly people’s requirements.
The targ et population in this research is the elder ly people in Chinese rural community. According to the
forecast reports of the United Nations “th e forecast of world population (1998)”, by year 2000, more than 10.1%
of population in China will be over age 60; by 2020, it will reach 1 6. 6% and by 2050 to 29. 7% . The propor tion
of people with over age 65 in 2000 was 6.8%, will reach 11.5% by 2020, to 22.6% in 2050 [4]. The number and
proportion of older adults in China during year 2000 to 2050 are showed in Table 1.
Care of the eld erly is on e of th e most important aspects of primary health care [5]. In order to increase the
safety needs and love needs of an elderly social stratum, proper concerns in the economic, political and social
efforts are necessary, so concerning for the elderly people repres ents a great responsibility for education of the
progeny of this community. Religious teachings are often used to reinforce and support the cultural imperatives
of caring for the elderly [6]. Psychic sanity and knowledge promotion and scientific mastery of elderly people in
the rural community affect the progression or retardation of society [7].
The main obj ective of th is surv ey is to kn ow the infor matio n needs of the elderly people in the rural commu-
nity in China which is experiencing a rapid growth of its elderly population. The paper is structured as follows.
Section 2 revi ews related literature works. Section 3 a nd section 4 d e scribe the r e search design and analyzes the
results of the survey respectively. In section5 and section 6, discussion and conclusions are given singly.
2. Literature Review
The study of rural community, since the earliest times of year 1881, has been consider ed and observed in socio-
logical books, the history of counties and different regions of the world [8]. Most of the previous studies on this
populace concern only their tradition and conventions; however, the paucity of institutions, facilities and spe-
cialist manpower for taking care of elderly people lead to that their information needs have not yet been sur-
veyed sufficiently. Current trends at all levels suggest an increasing demand and emphasis on keeping a watch-
ful eye on the elderly [9]. This is because of the increasing number of elderly people in our population and the
high proportion of migration of young people from rural to urban areas to seek employment due to lack of public
infrastructure service and low level of income in vast majority of rural areas. Old people’s houses built with the
support of lo cal government represent the only institutional care for elderly people at the pres ent time [10].
Some of the crucial issues in meeting the information needs of the elderly, which include the attitude of infor-
mation providers towards care for the eld erly, where information providers would prefer to meet for the elderly,
the types of information being needed by the elderly, and the effects of meeting for the elderly on information
providers, etc have not been properly figured out.
There are some issues that this study will inform. These issues are particular ly important in Chinese culture,
because taking good care of the elderly is the fine tradition of our Chinese nation and has been undertaken by
the government and extended by family system for so many years.
Zuo meiyun, Liu qingqing and Liu fang (200 9) [1] who based on the Maslow's theory of hierarchy of needs
and literary study analyzed the needs of the elderly and designed a model of the elderlys information needs.
Given the above analysis, they discussed the implications of applying the model and pointed out the information
technology/information system (IT/IS) productspositive roles in benefit to the elderlys information needs. On
Table 1. The proportion of older adults in China by 2000-2050 (source: [11]).
year total(hundred million) Age > 60 (years) Age > 65 (years) Age > 80 (years)
number proportion number proportion number proportion
2000 12.7 1.31 10.31 0.91 7.17 0.14 1.10
2010 13.76 1.73 12.57 1.15 8.36 0.21 1.53
2020 14.72 2.45 16.64 1.74 11.82 0.30 2.04
2030 15.24 3.55 23.20 2.44 16.01 0.43 2.82
2040 15.43 4.09 26.51 3.24 21.00 0.64 4.15
2050 15.21 4.38 28.80 3.32 21.83 1.00 6.57
C. F. Zou, P. Zhou
the other hand, they analyzed the impact of aging society on the IT/IS products. Their analysis reached the con-
clusions: with the three aspects of active works of developing and even creating the elderly's information needs,
establishing information systems to cover the elderly users, designing specifically the human--computer inter-
face for the elderly users, and dealing with challenges brought by aging society and seizing the potential indus-
try opportunities.
Jiang lihua, Hu a ng j i acheng (2011) [2] inquir ed into the information needs of the elderly in city community,
considering various information needs, such as information consultant, entertainment information, aging educa-
tion system information, digital network information, for the aged living in the local community. Accordingly,
they determined the priority of information needs from the elderlyand the caregi vers’ viewpoin ts and also eva-
luated the capability of community to satisfy these needs.
Yuan xiaoling, Jia junzhi and Zhu dan (2009) [12] investigated and analyzed village peasant’s information
demand kinds and methods, finding that peasant information demands are diversified and have focused features.
Because of the influence of factors such as information ability, information infrastructure and information or-
ganization level, the satisfaction rate of peasant is not high. These authors put forward some measures to better
satisfy peasant information demand, including cultivating peasant information self -help ability, providing ab-
undant information acquisition channel and str ength ening countryside library construction, etc.
Another example of studying the information needs of rural population is that of Wu piaosheng (2011), who
documented a pa rticip atory assessment of the information needs of the elderly in Yansan, a rura l community in
Jiangxi province in Middle-area China. The objective was to assess the information and learning needs of male
and female aged in the Yansan community in order to generate information that could assist in planning. The
author highlighted the need f or governments and development planners to adequately understand the so-
cio-economic circumstances and desires and needs of the aged of different ages in order to plan and implement
programs for them effectively. Also, the writer of the paper argued for an in-depth analysis of the information
demand, supply and service so as to provide with the theoretical basis for governmental policies in the regard.
Zhang shaochen (2010) and Zh a n g tao (2011), in their d issertation s, talk ed abou t aspects of rural inf or mation
service needs, such as the history of countryside community, their culture, education level, and also library ser-
vices provision for the aging population befo re and afte r the revolution concerning agriculture, rural v illages an d
farmers meaningthree agrarian issuestha t have been a big bottleneck for the society development and moder-
nization in China.
Xiao qiong (2009), in his dissertation, intended to present a model for studying which factor significantly re-
lates to the different content and channel of agricultural information service. After conducting the descriptive
analysis, the correlatio n analys i s and the Logistic an alysis were used to validate th e model. In the end, b a sed on
the above research, this dissertation analyzed th e current status of the rural information service supply and dis-
cusses how to build an effective and efficient rural informatio n serv ice system.
The central government of China, considering the information needs and social situations of countryside, has
issued several crucial policies to accelerate the in formationizatio n process of rural areas and th e practice is going
on. The proposed model for rural information service have put forward these traits [13]: (1) the information ser-
vice should be available to the majority of the rural population; (2)the information service should be coordinated
with local situations and quotidian life; (3) access to online education should be very easy in rural society; (4)
the required manpower for the rural information service should have lasting training; (5) rural information ser-
vice should provide the same equal communicative media as u rban on es.
Liu min, D eng yi cheng, He jing, L iu yue (201 1) [14] addressed the subject of culturally benefitting the
people, including the elderly people, which has challe n ged the library circle to rethink the way it delivers ser-
vices to, and addresses the issues “thre e agr arian issues” concerning agriculture, farmer and rural village,
strengthening excavating the information needs of farmers, Furt her attaching great importance to the rural in-
formatization and improving the rural information service system. The writers aimed to explore some of the is-
sues surrounding the approaches to rural information service work, with a specific emphasis on actively chang-
ing farmers' traditional conservative information idea, strengthening the consciousness of the modern informa-
tion demand. They concluded that the development of standards relatin g to rural information servic e is still in its
infancy and heavily dependent upon some traditional medias. The multiplicity of devices has focused standards
and best practices upon the convenience aspects of devices and also on an important means to satisfy the infor-
mation needs of rural population.
With the above literature reviews, the main purpose of this paper is to explore the information needs of the
C. F. Zou, P. Zhou
elderly population in rural community in Jiangxi province of China. The concrete objectives can be classified as:
(1) Studying their current information accessing situation s;
(2) Exploring their required information sources to satisfy thei r information needs;
(3) Seek i n g the essential equipment which could help them access information.
3. Methods
The target populations of this surve y are aged residents in rural community of the Yong Xiu County, 600 res-
pondents b eing selected as the research population. The survey, whi ch incl u ded 14 close-ended questions on a
variety of topics, such as essential information needs, demographic characteristics.etc, was distributed among
the target populations in questionnaire form after measuring validity an d reliab ility. Because the investigator
herself was born there and gave guidance to the informants, they were interested in the questionnaire survey
cooperatively and 600 completed que stionn air es were returned, giving an overall response rate of 100 percent.
A thor oug h examination of the relevant literatures has been made to ensure data validity and to further reduce
the possibility of non-random errors. Four pos t graduates majoring informatio n manage ment and information
system were asked to rev i ew the questionn air e for valid ity, completeness, and readability. At the same time, in-
ter-item analysis was used to check scales for internal consistency or reliability. Specifically, Cronbach’s relia-
bility coefficient was calculated for each scale. The questionnaire used in this survey demonstrated excellent in-
ter-rater reliability (Cronbach α= 0.85). Individually analyzing scale variables, the score varie d b etween 0.842
(reliability) and 0. 861 (quality of information).Th e domains su ch asrespondent’s agewere not scaled and the
Cronbach’s reliability coefficient could not be calculated. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for each domain
are summarized in Table 2. Descriptive statistics are calculated with th e Statistical Package for th e Social
Sciences (SPSS) (version 13) to obtain the demographic characteristics of the population and frequ ency of use
of information sources, detailed demographic characteristics of these people are given in Table 3.
4. Results
Based on the questionnaire responses, a typolog y of five categories of respondents’ information needs with 13
subcategories is establis hed. The five informatio n need categories are: Physiological informatio n, Safe informa-
tion, Affectiv e information, Respected information, Self-realized infor mation [1]. These categories are identified
from the questionnaires and ref i ned throughout the review process to reflect prominent themes from similar stu-
dies. The cor respo nd ing subcategories and th e number and percentage of responses for each category are pre-
sented in Table 4.
Most of the respondents thought that information quality, reliability, relevance, and accessibility highly in-
fluenced their choice of information sources. Therefore, television, radio, passing f ro m mouth to mouth and lo-
cal newspaper in traditional media sources are frequently used and mobile sets, A /V material, and Internet in
non-traditional media sources are seldom selected.
Analysis of the responses indicates that there is a marked preference for television (50 percent) followed by
radio (20 percent), passing from mouth to mouth (18 percent), local newspaper (7 percent) and non-traditional
media sources (5 percent), the detailed being in Table 5.
5. Discussions and Conclusions
Considering the respondentsattitudes, the need for fundamental information resources is more felt. The major
reason for this n eed may be the lack of sufficient fundamental information resources in their co mmunities. In the
elderlyopinion, the fundamental information subjects which take priority in importance are food, clothing ,
shelter, action, care , healthcare, and pension policy subjects.
These responde nts point of view has implied that the most important feature of a proper information services
is its availability, b ecause they think they are almost s h ort of d irect information services in the ir co mmunities, as
if they are forgot by the social public. The survey demonstrates that few researchers have been interested in
meeting information needs of the elderly and providing information services for this stratum. In consideration of
the results acquired through data analysis, reviewing the background and optimizing the elderlyaccess to in-
formation should be widely and quickly thought by researchers and practitioners.
The focus of this survey is the information needs of elderly people in rural communities of Yong Xiu County
C. F. Zou, P. Zhou
Table 2. Reliability analysis results.
Variables Measurement Level Cronbach
age nominal --
gender nominal --
requirement-level ordinal
fundamental nominal --
Un- fundamental nominal --
Physiological info nominal --
Safe info nominal --
Affective info nominal --
Respected info nominal --
Self-realization info nominal --
Info criteria
Quality of info scale 0.861
Reliability scale 0.842
Relevance scale 0.855
Accessibility scale 0.849
Availability scale 0.847
Ease use scale 0.854
Currency scale 0.858
Choice of traditional sources for info nominal --
Choice of non-traditional sources for info nominal --
Importance of info service nominal --
Info-provider characteristics nominal --
TV and broadcast availability scale 0.859
Communication with others (friends, neighbor) scale 0.852
Table 3. Demographic characteristics.
Variables Frequency Percentage
Age (years)
45 < age < 55 130 21.7
55 < age < 65 295 49.2
65 < age < 75 145 24.2
Age > 75 30 4.9
male 240 40.0
female 360 60.0
Education level
Non education 170 28.3
Primary school 190 31.7
middle school 170 28.3
Senior high school
70 11.7
C. F. Zou, P. Zhou
Table 4. Information needs by topic.
Category Subcategory Frequency Percentage
Physiological Food, clothing, shelter, action, care information 320 26.7
Safe Healthcare, pension policy information 280 23.3
Affective Friends and family activities, club activities information
230 19.2
Respected Self assessment, social evaluation information 190 15.8
Self-realized Knowledge skill, job information 180 15.0
total 1200 100.0
Table 5. Use frequency of information sources.
Sources of Info Number of Respondents Percentage Rank
television 300 50% 1
radio 120 20% 2
mouth to mouth 108 18% 3
newspaper 42 7% 4
others 30 5% 5
in Jiangxi province in China. The insuffic ient number of investigations focusing on the elderly peopleinforma-
tion needs and the results might not be applicable to other groups of the elderly people. Futur e res e arch should
therefore investigate other elderly peopleinformation needs and explore the contingency model for providing
information services according to their needs. That conducting a feas ibility study on designing digital informa-
tion exclusively for the elderly in which th ey can f ind r equired information is important.
This work was financially supported by innovation fund proj ect special for graduate students in Jiangxi prov-
ince (yc2013-b035) and fund project of Humanities and social science special for colleges and universities in
jiang xi province (GL131 2) and Science and technology project of Jiangxi education commission (GJJ1273 7) .
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