Many medical experts agree that it’s time for seniors to overcome any lingering fears of technology and enter the digital age—a world of e-health opportunities is waiting.
We’re living in a world that’s more digitally connected than ever, but are seniors taking full advantage of health resources that may, quite literally, be at their fingertips? Though more and more seniors are making the internet part of their daily lives, the Pew Internet Project reports that 47% of Americans aged 65 and over still haven’t entered the digital age. But as more and more medical services become available online, it’s older adults who stand to benefit the most from these ever-increasing opportunities for e-health.
Though some seniors may worry about issues such as manual dexterity, visual acuity, and personal privacy, the benefits to learning how to navigate the online world are becoming more and more undeniable.
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“Seniors need to get on the technological bandwagon and become an integral part of their own health care and health care delivery,” says Sara J. Czaja, Director of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE), in a New York Times article.
Why is it so important for seniors to get connected? The answer is, the internet and personal technology can offer seniors a wide range of tools for managing their own health. Many clinics and doctors can be contacted using e-mail or even Skype, and it’s now possible to maintain a personal electronic health record with all of your medical data in one place, accessible through any computer, phone, or other web-enabled device. The internet allows unprecedented access to information about medicines, diet and fitness.
With increasing numbers of seniors using the internet, it’s no surprise that many websites are being designed with the elderly in mind. NIHSeniorHealth.gov, for instance, has a clean, uncluttered layout with easy-to-read type, and avoids medical jargon so that seniors who don’t have in-depth medical knowledge aren’t intimidated.
And it doesn’t stop there. Dr. Czaja and her colleagues at CREATE are working on the future of senior e-health technology, spearheading projects that promote easier medical management and better quality of life, from games that promote cognitive fitness to the potential for robotic assistance in the home.
If your loved one hasn’t quite entered the digital age but wants to learn, consider taking some time to teach them. NIHSeniorHealth.gov offers a free Toolkit for Trainers with some tips on how to show seniors where to find medical information online. For the more adventurous, many local libraries and senior centers offer computer classes or training for older adults.
We want to hear from you—are your older family members active online, or are they still hesitant to enter the internet age? What’s your favorite digital health resource for seniors? Let us know in the comments!