Older veteran digital disparities: Examining the potential for solutions within social networks

Tana M. Luger, Timothy P. Hogan, Lorilei M. Richardson, Lisa Cioffari-Bailiff, Kimberly Harvey, Thomas K. Houston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Older adults typically have less access to the Internet than other age groups, and older Veterans may use the Internet even less due to economic and geographic reasons. Objective: To explore solutions to this problem, our study examined older Veterans' reported ability to access technology through their close social ties. Methods: Data were collected via mail survey from a sample of Veterans aged 65 years and older (N=266). Results: Nearly half (44.0%, 117/266) of the sample reported having no Internet access. Yet, among those without current access, older Veterans reported having a median of 5 (IQR 7) close social ties with home Internet access. These older Veterans also reported that they would feel comfortable asking a median of 2 (IQR 4) social ties for help to access the Internet, and that a median of 2 (IQR 4) social ties would directly access the Internet for the older Veteran to help with health management. Conclusions: Findings suggest that even older Veterans without current Internet access have at least two social ties with home Internet who could be called upon for technology support. Thus, older Veterans may be willing to call upon these "surrogate seekers" for technology assistance and support in health management. This has implications for the digital divide, technology design, and health care policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere296
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital divide
  • Internet
  • Social network
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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