The Open UniversitySkip to content

“If I want to know anything I just Google it”: Older adults’ functional and social leisure activities and technology.

Kulczycki, Cory; Genoe, Rebecca; Marston, Hannah; Freeman, Shannon and Musselwhite, Charles (2016). “If I want to know anything I just Google it”: Older adults’ functional and social leisure activities and technology. In: Canadian Congress on Leisure Research 15: Engaging legacies (CCLR15), 23-26 May, 2017, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada (forthcoming).

Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Technology use is increasing globally as more people obtain access to it. Older adults are among the fastest growing group of technology users (Perrin & Duggan, 2015). Almost 60% of people over 65 use the Internet and 77% have a cell phone (Smith, 2014). Furthermore, mobile technology is becoming more relevant for older adults (Kim & Preis, 2016). However, older adults’ perceptions of the benefits of technology use vary (Selwyn, 2004). Those who adopt technology tend to be younger, more educated, and have a higher income than those who do not (Smith, 2014). Users focus on project-based or purposeful use while non-users are indifferent to technology and/or engage in non-technological activities during their free-time (Hanson, 2010; Selwyn, 2004). Despite these variations, several benefits of technology use have been identified, including: enjoyment and entertainment, increased learning opportunities, information searches, business transactions (e.g., shopping, finances), and social contact (Gatto & Tak, 2008). However, adults aged 70 and older are underrepresented and little attention has been paid specifically to older adults and technology use in the leisure literature (for exceptions see Kim & Preis, 2016; Nimrod, 2011). The Technology In Later Life (TILL) Project aimed to explore technology use among adults aged 70 and over since “despite the increasing political, academic, and practitioner interest in older adults and technology, we know little of the realities of how older adults use, and do not use [information and communications technologies] in their everyday lives” (Selwyn, 2004, p. 370-371). The focus of the TILL Project was to understand older adults’ perceptions and use or non-use of technology. We adopted a mixed methods approach for this international pilot study. Participants were recruited from four different sites spanning urban and rural environments. Two sites were located in Canada and two were located in the UK. Thirty-seven participants completed an 80-item online survey and then participated in a semi-structured focus group. Survey questions included types of devices owned and reasons for using technology (e.g., social networking, banking). Focus group discussions were a minimum duration of 60 minutes and were digitally recorded and transcribed. Questions explored benefits and challenges of technology use, including issues such as access to and use of technology, learning how to use technology, and privacy concerns. Several themes were identified through initial and focused coding (Charmaz, 2014), including technology use habits, benefits of using technology, and challenges of using technology. Technology use was both functional and social as participants researched information, maintained health and safety records, constructed communication pathways (e.g., social media, video conferencing) and engaged in leisure (e.g., gaming and reading). Technology played a role in the participants’ leisure activities, ranging from information searches for crafting to online games and communication. Despite these benefits, some participants remained cautious, taking care to protect personal information and limit time spent on technology This study provides insight into the possibilities of technology use as a site for leisure amongst older adults, as well as the barriers or challenges experienced as older adults embrace technology for leisure engagement.


Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory, 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hanson, V. L. (2010). Influencing technology adoption by older adults. Interacting with Computers, 22, 502-509.
Gatto, S. L. & Tak, S. H. (2008). Computer, internet, and e-mail use among older adults: Benefits and barriers. Educational Gerontology, 34(9), 800-811.
Kim, M. J., & Preis, M. W. (2016). Why seniors use mobile devices: Applying an extended model of goal-directed behavior. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 33(3), 404-423.
Nimrod, G. (2011). The fun culture in seniors’ online communities. The Gerontologist, 51(2), 226-237.
Perrin, A., & Duggan, M. (2015). American’s Internet access: 2000-2015. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved from:
Selwyn, N. (2004). The information aged: A qualitative study of older adults’ use of information and communications technology. Journal of Aging Studies, 18, 369-384.
Smith, A. (2014). Older adults and technology use. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2016 The Authors
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Research Group: Health and Wellbeing PRA (Priority Research Area)
Item ID: 47954
Depositing User: Hannah Marston
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2016 10:51
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2017 15:43
Share this page:

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU