Date Published: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Tsai-Hsuan Tsai, Hsien-Tsung Chang, Yi-Lun Ho, Stefano Federici.
Many studies have noted that the use of social networks sites (SNSs) can enhance social interaction among the elderly and that the motivation for the elderly to use SNSs is to keep in contact with remote friends and family or the younger generation. Memotree is designed to promote intergenerational family communication. The system incorporates the Family Tree design concept and provides family communication mechanisms based on the Family Communication Scale. In addition, the system optimizes hardware and interface use to conform to the specific needs of older and substantially younger individuals. Regarding the impact of variables on SNS with respect to the interaction of usability variables in the construction of a cross-generational communication platform, we adopted the TAM model and Chung et al.’s suggestions to promote user acceptance of the proposed Memotree system. A total of 39 grandchildren and 39 grandparents met the criteria and were included in the study. The elderly and young respondents revealed substantial willingness to use and/or satisfaction with using the Memotree system. Empirical results indicate that technology affordances and perceived ease of use have a positive impact on perceived usefulness, while perceived ease of use is affected by technology affordances. Internet self-efficacy and perceived usefulness have a positive impact on the user’s behavioral intention toward the system. In addition, this study investigated age as a moderating variable in the model. The results indicate that grandchildren have a larger significant effect on the path between perceived usefulness and behavioral intention than grandparents. This study proposes a more complete framework for investigating the user’s behavioral intention and provides a more appropriate explanation of related services for cross-generational interaction with SNS services.
The aging of the global population is changing life and marriage patterns as well as population structures . As life expectancy increases, more time is available for the development of family relationships, and elderly individuals are willing to spend more time on interaction with family members and maintaining family relationships . Most grandparents attach considerable importance to their relationships with their grandchildren and are eager for more frequent and intimate interaction with them . From the standpoint of grandparents, through this unilateral, passive acceptance of family assistance and support, the grandparents provide their grandchildren with material and emotional assistance. Such behavior satisfies and affirms the self-worth of the grandparents, increases interaction and improves emotional ties between the generations. It can also improve the vitality of the grandparents while slowing the onset of mental or physical illness . In addition, grandparents have many years of experience to pass down to the younger generation, which provides their grandchildren with an understanding of life’s continuity and feelings of affirmation and respect. Affirmation and respect gained in this manner can raise the status and authority of the grandparents in the family, thus enhancing their self-identity and social value [4–9]. Interaction between grandchildren and their grandparents can enhance mutual understanding, reduce prejudice and fear of the elderly, and increase awareness of the nature of aging among the younger generation. In addition, through the learning process, the grandparents contribute to the development of personal traits, literacy, social acclimation, and the physical and mental health of their grandchildren [4, 8]. In Chinese families, such close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are common primarily due to the influence of filial piety as a longstanding ethical core of Chinese society. Filial piety is a Confucian idea that encompasses a broad range of behaviors, including children’s respect, obedience, loyalty, material provision, and physical care for parents. Thus, grown children are considered responsible for the care of their parents and obliged to have their aging parents live with them. It is common for three generations to live under one roof while providing mutual assistance. This arrangement contributes to close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren. However, as a 2010 report by the United Nations notes , this traditional arrangement is gradually fading with changes to social and economic structures, and since the end of the Second World War, the number of elderly individuals who live alone has sharply increased. This trend is also visible in other Asian countries, where rapid industrialization and modernization have been widely accompanied by urbanization and the concentration of jobs in particular areas. As the younger generations migrate to urban centers to seek employment, they are separated from their elderly parents, which limits the interaction between grandparents and grandchildren and decreases the frequency of contact. These dramatic social changes are having a significant impact on family structures, functions, and resources as well as family relations. The predominant model of traditional family organization has been gradually replaced by single-family or nuclear-family patterns. These changes to traditional living patterns have decreased the frequency of contact between grandparents and grandchildren, thus reducing the degree of mutual understanding and making interaction between generations a critical problem for modern family relationships. [7, 11–15]
This study aims to verify user acceptance of the Memotree communication system by understanding the underlying factors that influence the intention to use and the satisfaction of grandparent/grandchild users. Based on the original TAM, Chung et al.  proposed an extension of the technology acceptance model to assess an online community. The present study adopts Chung et al.’s  proposed external variables (i.e., Internet self-efficacy, quality of online community sites, technology affordances and privacy protection) to investigate the intention to adopt the Memotree system among potential grandparent/grandchild users. Additionally, TAM is derived from TRA, and according to TRA, a person’s performance of a specified behavior is determined by the person’s behavioral intention (BI). BI is also jointly determined by the person’s attitude (A) and subjective norm (SN) concerning the behavior in question. Any other factors that influence behavior do so only indirectly by influencing A, and SN would fall into the category “external variable.” Thus, the four variables proposed by Chung et al.  are termed “external variables.” Operational definitions of the variables are provided in Table 1, while the study’s research framework is shown in Fig 2.
In this study, we developed a family communication platform known as Memotree for intergenerational users based on the different user habits and experience or elderly and young individuals. The Memotree system makes it easy for grandparents to adopt the younger generation’s social mode and improve interaction and communication with other family members. The primary aim of the study was to use Chung et al.’s  proposed extension of the technology acceptance model to verify user acceptance and investigate intention/satisfaction among the grandparents and grandchildren through the use of the Memotree system. The results of the study indicate that a path was established between perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness, which does not correspond with the findings of Chung et al. . The reason for this outcome is that the target groups assessed by Chung et al. were familiar with the operation of online communities. In contrast, as a newly developed social interaction platform, Memotree assumes that users must learn to use the new technology. Thus, perceived ease of use is a key factor in perceived usefulness. However, the significant path found between perceived usefulness and behavioral intention agreed with Chung et al., which indicates that Memotree is more likely to be accepted when users consider it to be useful or effective in enhancing family communication.
Previous TAM studies on the acceptance of social networking sites are too numerous to list. However, few have focused on the impact of external variables on SNS usability primarily because most current SNSs lack a mature model for the presentation of content and user behavior and because relevant empirical research is lacking. Therefore, this study followed Chung et al.’s proposals regarding the impact of variables on SNS with respect to the interaction of usability variables in the construction of a cross-generational communication platform known as Memotree. Empirical results indicate that technology affordances and perceived ease of use have a positive impact on perceived usefulness, while perceived ease of use is affected by technology affordances. Perceived usefulness and Internet self-efficacy have a positive impact on the user’s behavioral intention toward the system. In addition, this study investigated age as a moderating variable in the model. The results indicate that age only affects the path between perceived usefulness and behavioral intention. Therefore, in future research, the effect of age on perceived usefulness and behavioral intention could be investigated via interviews to understand why elderly individuals and young adults have different attitudes regarding perceived usefulness and behavioral intention. The finding could serve as a guideline when designing systems for different user age groups.