UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Nursing; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Information Technology | Health Services Administration | Sociology


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.


Internet, Veterans, digital divide, social network

Rights and Permissions

© Tana M Luger, Timothy P Hogan, Lorilei M Richardson, Lisa Cioffari-Bailiff, Kimberly Harvey, Thomas K Houston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

DOI of Published Version



J Med Internet Res. 2016 Nov 23;18(11):e296. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of medical Internet research

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID