SPRY Foundation - Setting Priorities for Retirement Years
SPRY Conference Focuses on Increasing Use of Internet Among Older Persons

WASHINGTON, DC - March 5, 2001
Although less than a third of Americans over age 50 used the Internet in mid-2000, this group is growing so rapidly that the availability of health information available on the Web is likely to have a major impact on their efforts to be active partners in their health care.

"This is already happening," says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging. "Patients are getting information from the Internet as well as from medical practitioners and as consumers they are also giving information gathered from the Internet back to their physicians."

Hodes's talk was a highlight in three days of workshops, break-out sessions, and presentations at the "Older Adults, Health Information and the World Wide Web" conference sponsored by SPRY together with the Administration on Aging, NIH Institutes, and a host of other government and private organizations. He said this new model presents challenges as never before both to older persons and to the health care delivery system. Hodes explained that these challenges are particularly acute because the number of adults over age 65 will double in the next 50 years.

"One result is that the incidence of chronic diseases will increase, making it that much more important that older adults and caregivers get access to information about prevention and early treatment," he said. Thus, the Internet has great potential to help society avoid the expensive burden of large numbers of elderly with major disabilities.

He outlined recent research findings on why many older adults still avoid the Web — their technology gap, lack of computers, concerns about privacy, disbelief that the Internet can help them find information relevant to them, and the difficulties they have in using search engines and navigating a Web site.

To begin to address these needs, 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 guide will synthesize the work of a number of independent groups throughout the world who have established excellent criteria for evaluation. The guide is expected to be available in the next several months, he said and 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.

Other conference presenters came from universities, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, Congress and private business. Among the more than 40 experts on the program were:

W. S. "Ozzie" Osborne, general manager, IBM Voice Systems, who discussed today's exponential growth of computer technology and new applications and wireless technology expected to help older adults access the Web more easily.

Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA), promoted telemedicine and improved access to the Internet as well as safeguards for the privacy of health information for older Americans.

U.S. Rep. Connie Morella, (R.-MD), a co-chair of the Older Americans Caucus in Congress, discussed efforts underway in Congress to study online privacy and ways to help older adults overcome the digital divide through training, computers and possible tax credits.

Donald M. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine, highlighted the latest activities by the National Library of Medicine with regard to providing quality health information to older adults. Also at another point in the program, Joyce Backus, senior systems librarian for the National Library of Medicine, highlighted the needs of older users of MEDLINEplus system which has been redesigned to be more user friendly for seniors.

Joseph Erdos, M.D., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke on "Federal Health Care Delivery on the Web: Electronic Home-Based Primary Care."

Elizabeth Isele, founder and president of CyberSeniors.org, outlined how to build a successful program to train older adults to use the Internet.

SPRY is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), foundation established in Washington, DC, in 1991 to conduct research and education programs to help older adults plan for a healthy and financially secure future.

Government sponsors of the February 2001 Conference include: Administration on Aging; Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Care Financing Administration, National Institutes of Health (including the National Institute on Aging; National Library of Medicine; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Cancer Institute, National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine; National Eye Institute; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism; National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases; National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases; Office of the Director - Office of Disease Prevention; Office of the Director - Office of Research on Women's Health); Health Resources & Services Administration - Office for the Advancement of Telehealth; FirstGov for Seniors; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Department of Health and Human Services- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The Conference is also being co-sponsored by the following privately organizations: HealthandAge.com/Novartis Foundation for Gerontology; Merck Company Foundation/Merck Institute of Aging & Health; National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare; Pfizer, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica; and Aventis Pasteur.


For further information contact:
Karen Anderson
andersonk@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8466



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