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Patterns of technology use among older adults with and without disabilities.

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Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to describe prevalence of technology use among adults ages 65 and older, particularly for those with disability and activity-limiting symptoms and impairments.

Design and methods

Data from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries (N = 7,609), were analyzed. Analysis consisted of technology use (use of e-mail/text messages and the internet) by sociodemographic and health characteristics and prevalence ratios for technology usage by disability status.


Forty percent of older adults used e-mail or text messaging and 42.7% used the internet. Higher prevalence of technology use was associated with younger age, male sex, white race, higher education level, and being married (all p values <.001). After adjustment for sociodemographic and health characteristics, technology use decreased significantly with greater limitations in physical capacity and greater disability. Vision impairment and memory limitations were also associated with lower likelihood of technology use.


Technology usage in U.S. older adults varied significantly by sociodemographic and health status. Prevalence of technology use differed by the type of disability and activity-limiting impairments. The internet, e-mail, and text messaging might be viable mediums for health promotion and communication, particularly for younger cohorts of older adults and those with certain types of impairment and less severe disability.

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