New York — If Sen. John McCain is really serious about becoming a Web-savvy citizen, perhaps Kathryn Robinson can help.
Robinson is now 106 - that's 35 years older than McCain - and she began using the Internet at 98, at the Barclay Friends home in West Chester, Pa., where she lives. "I started to learn because I wanted to e-mail my family," she says - in an e-mail message, naturally.
Blogs have been buzzing recently over a recent admission by McCain, 71, that when it comes to the Internet, "I'm an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get."
McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan presented a somewhat updated picture when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday: "He's fully capable of browsing the Internet and checking Web sites," Buchanan said. "He has a Mac and uses it several times a week. He's working on becoming more familiar with the Internet."
How unusual is it for a 71-year-old American to be unplugged?
That depends how you look at the statistics. Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online, according to data from April and May compiled by the Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.
But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. "About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet," says Susannah Fox, director of the project.
Why do most of us - 73 percent of Americans - use the Internet? The top three reasons are, in order, e-mail, informational searches and finding a map or driving directions.
But there are dozens of other conveniences: Online banking, shopping, travel or restaurant reservations, job searches, real estate listings, and of course, the news. (McCain, like many people over 30 or so, prefers his newspapers the old-fashioned way.)
McCain may be in "digital denial," but his family sure isn't: His wife, Cindy, has been seen scrolling away on her Blackberry, and daughter Meghan, one of his seven children, blogs from the campaign trail on McCain Blogette.
As for McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama is 46, and thus in an age group where fully 85 percent of Americans are plugged in. A CNN clip available on YouTube shows him so engrossed with his Blackberry while crossing a street that he bumps into the curb.