Cognitive ability and Internet use among older adults

Jeremy Freese*, Salvador Rivas, Eszter Hargittai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


While previous work has found cognitive ability to be strongly associated with whether older adults use the Internet, we consider whether cognitive ability also differentiates basic aspects of use. Four measures of use are considered: having high-speed access, length of time since initial household adoption, self-reported time using the Internet, and whether any of the respondent's Internet use involves the Web in addition to e-mail. In all cases, we find associations with cognitive ability, although effects are sometimes mediated to nonsignificance by subsequent attainments, especially education. Given how central social support is to discussions of older adults navigating the Internet, we look also at reports of the availability of such support, and we find that cognition is positively related to respondents having someone available to help them with Internet problems. Taken together, our results suggest strongly that the already cognitively advantaged are much better positioned to reap the potential benefits of online tools to help older adults navigate social benefits and make complicated decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-249
Number of pages14
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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