Coordinated Care Management

May 31, 2012

While Some Seniors May Fear Technology, They're Still the Fastest Growing Group of Users

In the UK, they call them “silver surfers.” Sounds kind of sexy, but what it means is National Health Services (NHS) patients in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who are not using technologies like telehealth, and must be encouraged to, in a health service which can no longer afford to deal with costly long-term conditions in the same way, a senior Department of Health official has insisted.

Telehealth encompasses all the ways patients can be monitored remotely, and safely, at home for chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and other serious conditions, keeping them out of the hospital and reducing costs, according to a story by Matthew D’Arcy.

In the U.S., a much smaller proportion of older Americans use computers or the Internet compared to younger people. However, computer use among Americans 65 and older has doubled in the past 10 years, while Internet usage among that age group has more than tripled, according to the 2011 Pew Internet Project.

Jim Easton, the NHS national director for improvement and efficiency, told D’Arcy that one solution thought of, “dropping a computer" into the homes of disadvantaged and isolated citizens in their 80s and 90s might "not assist their care.”

Some think seniors don’t use computers because they are either afraid of, or are immune to, technological advancements.

While in 2011, 7.8 million people reportedly owned iPads (over 50 percent of them, men); only a little less than a half million were 65 or older.

Fear may indeed be what’s holding back some seniors. Software and technology change often, forcing these older folks to have to learn new things over and over. But that doesn’t account for the ones embracing the Internet passionately, like my friend, Lois, who, well into her 80s, e-mails me almost every day.

NHS’ Easton said recently that it was necessary to "unhook clinicians' time from wasteful activity" through technology so that they could then give "extra effort" to disadvantaged people. "The 50, 60 and 70 year olds, the silver surfers, there are many of those people who are desperate to interact with their healthcare services in the same way they interact very positively with their banks," he told the Public Service Events conference.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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