SPRY Foundation - Setting Priorities for Retirement Years
New Technology and How — To Guide Will Help Seniors Mine Web More Easily for Health Topics

WASHINGTON, DC - February 27, 2001
Help is on the way to tame the often frustrating process of getting quality health information from the Internet for America's burgeoning wave of senior citizens. IBM's legendary computer guru W.S. "Ozzie" Osborne today told over 350 leaders in research, adult learning, and technology at a national conference at the National Institutes of Health that new technology soon will make the Web increasingly accessible for older persons with an ease not imagined before. The advances will benefit not only seniors grappling with declining sight and hearing, but persons with other disabilities, he said at the conference "Older Adults, Health Information and the World Wide Web" sponsored by SPRY together with the Administration on Aging, NIH Institutes, and other government and private organizations.

"We are developing products to change the way people use computers and access information," said Osborne, one of the original developers of the personal computer nearly 30 years ago and now general manager of IBM Voice Systems.

"These include assistive technologies such as (eye) pupil tracking, wearable computers, and the 'emotion mouse' that can understand the user's personality." Osborne outlined advances in human voice recognition that open new possibilities for how computers are used. He also discussed technology that can capture and understand handwriting.

"Developments like these are revolutionary, but they aren't enough by themselves," said Russell E. Morgan, Dr. P.H., president of SPRY (Setting Priorities for Retirement Years). "We are beginning to understand better how older persons learn and how to design Web sites that are less aggravating to them." He explained that senior-friendly Web sites are of vital importance in empowering more older persons to use the best information tool available—the Internet—to get the information they want and need to make decisions about their health." Morgan pointed out that some surverys have shown that next to e-mail, looking for health information represents the largest use of the Internet by older Americans and their caregivers. "We also know there are already over 50,000 health Web sites," Morgan said. "The question then becomes, 'How do I choose and which ones do I believe?'"

To begin to address that need, Morgan announced that SPRY will develop a practical guide for consumers on "How to Evaluate the Quality of the Content of Health Information on a Web site. The new guide will be a companion to SPRY's "Guide to Developing Web sites for Older Adults" published two years ago and distributed nationally to creators of Web sites in community, national, and government organizations.

The conference at NIH, sponsored by SPRY together with the Administration on Aging, NIH Institutes, and other government and private organizations, continues through Wednesday at the Natcher Center/NIH in Bethesda, MD. SPRY is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), foundation established in Washington, DC, in 1991. It conducts research and education programs to help older adults plan for a healthy and financially secure future.

For further information contact:
Karen Anderson
(202) 216-8466

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