The Association of Computer Usage and Cognitive Function in Older Adults

TitleThe Association of Computer Usage and Cognitive Function in Older Adults
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLiou-Johnson, V
Academic DepartmentPsychology
Number of Pages83
UniversityPalo Alto University
Thesis Typephd
ISBN Number9780438025363
Keywords0351:Gerontology, 0633:Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Cognitive psychology, Computer use, Executive function, Gerontology, Older adult, Processing speed, Psychology, Social Sciences, Working memory

Computers are a ubiquitous part of American culture. While older adults (65 years and over) are often among the last adopters of new technology (Pew Research Center, 2014), those who are more willing to utilize new technologies may be at a cognitive advantage over those who do not use them (Wright, 2000). This dissertation examines the cognitive functioning associated with computer use in older adults. It was hypothesized that due to the complex nature of computer usage, older adults who utilize a computer often, would have better preserved cognitive functioning than older adults who do not use the computer as often. This study utilized archival data from the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study (ADAMS) in a quasi-experimental, cross-sectional design. Adult participants (n = 274) 71 years or older with no dementia were included in the study. All participants and collaterals completed interviews and questionnaires regarding activities of daily living, demographic, and lifestyle information. All participants completed the Trail Making Test (TMT-A; TMT-B); Digit Span Forward (DSF) and Backward (DSB); and Symbol Digit Modalities Task (SDMT). To examine the relationship between computer use, cognitive flexibility, working memory, information processing and processing speed, a hierarchical multiple linear regression was used. Age, years of education, and sex were entered as covariates. TMT-A and DSF were entered as covariates in the models. TMT-B, DSB, or SDMT were entered as the dependent variables in three separate models. Age, years of education, sex, TMT-A, and DSF were all significantly associated with regular computer use in older adults without dementia (p < .01). However, only SDMT was significantly associated with regular computer use in cognitive normal older adults ( p = 0.013). These findings suggest that regular computer use was associated with information processing and processing speed, as measured by SDMT, in older adults without dementia. However, due to the cross-sectional design, causality cannot be determined. Thus, as reported by Kaye et al. (2014), it is possible that the older adults who used the computer regularly had higher cognitive function and were therefore more likely to continue using the computer than those with decreased cognitive functioning.


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Citation Key10341