Some recent Internet statistics caught my eye and, frankly, surprised me. In a 2009 study,1 those 65 and older lead all other generational groups in online shopping with 77% reporting that they shop online. They also regularly use e-mail (94%), look for medical/health related information online (71%), and conduct financial or banking activities online (59%). Baby Boomers are also active online with e-mail (93%), shopping (71%), reading the news (73%), seeking information (67%), and paying bills (66%).
What surprised me were the robust percentages of the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers who use the Internet for everything from e-mail to banking. Shopping is no surprise; the Internet is a godsend to shut-ins. Our Resident Reflections' columnist Kathleen Mears recently wrote what a resource the Internet is for her. She lives in an Ohio nursing home.
Only seven years ago with elderly adults comprising 13% of the population, only 4% used the Internet, according to a study from Duquesne University. Out of the 56% of Americans online at the time, only 15% of those age 65 and older had direct access to the Internet. The same study showed patients more than 60 years old had a lower desire for control over their healthcare when compared to younger adults. Moreover, older patients and men were more likely to let their physician make decisions regarding their treatment. My, how times have changed!
Do you have Internet accessibility at your facility? Far eclipsing the ability to e-mail and shop are the benefits of computers to brain health. The Duquesne study also showed training the elderly to use the Internet lowered levels of computer anxiety.
If you haven't already, it's time for you to join the computer evolution. No revolution is taking place in the Baby Boomer generation or over 65 set, but a steady and building evolution is percolating. You owe it to your residents, on a number of different levels, to have computers and computer training available to them. Not only can they use brain fitness programs, but they can be engaged in learning a new skill. What an accomplishment and thrill for my 86-year-old mother to send her first e-mail! I don't expect her to become a cyber-convert nor does she need to be, but the feeling of accomplishment was well worth the time “hunting and pecking” on the keyboard to craft her short message to my sister and then hitting the “send” button. Multiply that experience by the thousands of seniors in your facilities and you can hit a home run on so many levels.
The senior care market is burgeoning with other forms of technology that simply knock one's socks off. If you haven't already, there's no time like the present to dip your facility's toe in technological waters.
Maureen Hrehocik, Editor
- CTAM with Boomer Eyes, a division of C&R Research. Seventy-Seven Percent of Senior Citizens Shop Online: Today's Seniors and Boomers Rival Younger Generations in Online Activities. October 27, 2009. View at http://www.ctam.com.
Long-Term Living 2010 April;59(4):8