Older Adults in Virtual Communities: Understanding the Antecedents of Knowledge Contribution and Knowledge Seeking Through the Lens of Socioemotional Selectivity and Social Cognitive Theories

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Journal of Knowledge Management

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Purpose: As older adults are increasingly active in virtual communities (VCs), these platforms for knowledge exchange present opportunities for companies to use elder human capital. The purpose of this study is to understand the antecedent factors that motivate older adults’ knowledge contribution and knowledge seeking (KS) behaviors in VCs. Design/methodology/approach: Rooted in socio-emotional selectivity and social cognitive theories, this study included five key variables and developed models for older adults’ knowledge contributing (KC)/KS behaviors. This paper tested the hypotheses using data from a sample of 204 older adults in 3 VCs in China. Findings: The results provide support for most of the hypotheses and show that while other members’ participation (MP) acts as a substitute for meaning in life and attitude toward aging, it acts as a complement for outcome expectations (OE) focused on others and OE focused on oneself in their impacts on KC/KS activities. Practical implications: The study provides practical insights for developing elder human resources via VCs to avoid knowledge loss. Originality/value: This study described older adults’ unique characteristics when modeling their information and communication technologies-related behaviors and built two models to explain their KC/KS behaviors. It confirmed that the same factor has different levels of impact on older adults’ KC/KS behaviors in VCs. In addition, it confirmed and reinforced the complementary and substitutive effects of other MP as an environmental factor on these behaviors.


Older adults; Knowledge contribution; Knowledge seeking; Virtual community


Gerontology | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Social Media



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