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Why the Internet Is Failing Our Senior Citizens

August 3, 2016, 4:47 PM UTC
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One of the potential advantages of the Internet is that it can bring vital health information into the homes of those who most need it. But new research shows that many senior citizens are not taking advantage of these online health resources.

A new report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 18% of 7,609 seniors surveyed went online to get health-related information.

The data comes from the National Health and Aging Trends survey of Medicare beneficiaries—all over the age of 65—that has been going on annually for five years. The tally disclosed this week by a team of researchers from Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital led by David Levine, M.D. actually reflects results from 2014.

Just 16% percent of those who responded said they went online to research some health-related topic, followed by 8% to fill prescriptions, 7% to contact their healthcare providers, and 5% to deal with insurance issues, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

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There were demographic differences within this cohort of respondents. For example, white seniors were more likely to go online than their black or Latino counterparts. Furthermore, college grads used the Internet more than those without a high school degree. Finally, those who saw themselves as being in excellent health were twice as likely to go online than those who viewed their own health as poor.

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The main conclusion is that senior citizens—the part of the population most susceptible to health problems—are not taking full advantage of online resources available to them.

From a summary of the report:”Digital health is not reaching most seniors and is associated with socioeconomic disparities, raising concern about its ability to improve quality, cost, and safety of their health care. Future innovations should focus on usability, adherence, and scalability to improve the reach and effectiveness of digital health for seniors,”