Diffusion of technology: Frequency of use for younger and older adults

Katherine E. Olson, Marita A. O'Brien, Wendy A. Rogers, Neil Charness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When we think of technology-savvy consumers, older adults are typically not the first persons that come to mind. The common misconception is that older adults do not want to use or cannot use technology. But for an increasing number of older adults, this is not true (Pew Internet and American Life Project 2003). Older adults do use technologies similar to their younger counterparts, but perhaps at different usage rates. Previous research has identified that there may be subgroups of older adults, "Silver Surfers", whose adoption patterns mimic younger adults (Pew Internet and American Life Project 2003). Much of the previous research on age-related differences in technology usage has only investigated usage broadly-from a "used" or "not used" standpoint. The present study investigated age-related differences in overall usage of technologies, as well as frequency of technology usage (i. e., never, occasional, or frequent). The data were gathered through a questionnaire from younger adults (N = 430) and older adults (N = 251) in three geographically separate and ethnically diverse areas of the United States. We found that younger adults use a greater breadth of technologies than older adults. However, age-related differences in usage and the frequency of use depend on the technology domain. This paper presents technology usage and frequency data to highlight age-related differences and similarities. The results provide insights into older and younger adults' technology-use patterns, which in turn provide a basis for expectations about knowledge differences. Designers and trainers can benefit from understanding experience and knowledge differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-145
Number of pages23
JournalAgeing International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related differences
  • Computer and internet use
  • Technology diffusion
  • Technology use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)

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