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Some Seniors In U.S. ‘Left Behind’ In E-Health Movement

Dorathy Gass

According to a recent study, a majority of American seniors are not turning to health resources online.

Dr. Yan Hong, lead researcher, notes that the world wide web has turned into the ‘social norm’ nowadays; however, there is a ‘digital divide’ amongst individuals who have access to the web and people who don’t. He adds that older adults are more susceptible to what he calls ‘digital inequality’ as they are the last to get on board when it comes to the latest the technology world has to offer.

According to the Pew Research Center, only one percent of the 18 to 29 age demographic don’t use the internet; while approximately 41% of adults 65 years or older don’t go online.

As it relates to the study, the research team reviewed data from a U.S. survey of individuals 18 years of age and older. They gathered information collected in 2003, 2005, and 2011 to 2012 from close to 15,000 individuals. This study specifically concentrated on about 6,600 participants who were 55 years or older. These individuals were then divided into three groups: 55 to 64, 65 to 74, and 75+. Their data was reviewed against the age groups younger than 55 years of age.

Interestingly enough, overall internet use increased in all the 55+ age groups. In fact, just over 16% of participants 75+ years were online, while in 2011, those number increased by over 33%. Online use increased for the 65 to 75 age group by 28.9%; and increased by 15% for the 55 to 64-year-old demographic. Still, the report notes, in 2011 these groups weren’t close to the 87% internet-use rate within the 18 to 54-year-old demographic.

As it relates to online health resources, among the senior demographic that did use the web, a mere 57% were using the internet for health info in 2003. That number increased to 80% in 2011.
The number of online-using seniors who purchased meds via the web increased from 14% in 2003 to approximately 21% in 2011. Additionally, in 2011, 22% of these seniors were reaching out to physicians via the internet, versus the eight percent in 2003.

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