Use of Online Health Information
What You Need to Know
- Older adults are using the internet to access health information more frequently.
- Develop and test website content with older adults to increase the usability of your information.
- Older adults may also rely on social media platforms to access and share health information.
Websites and Social Media
The Pew Research Center reports that more older adults are using the internet to access information. Be sure to use a user-centered design (UCD) approach if you decide to develop online health information. A UCD approach involves older adults in helping design a website or test other digital products.
For more information about developing websites for older adults and usability testing visit:
- Making Your Website Senior-Friendly
- Usability Testing
- Health Literacy Online: A Guide for Simplifying the User Experience
In addition to using websites to access information, older adults are using social media more often. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, people aged 65 years and older have increased their social media use by 30% since 2012. Luz et al. (2022) investigated health information-seeking behavior among older adults using Facebook during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers analyzed user participation in Facebook groups, reactions to posts, sharing of content, and following other users over a 12-month period. The study found that participants’ Facebook activity increased as COVID-19 cases increased globally. Over the course of the year, positive reactions increased, while negative comments decreased. The authors also found that most posts on aging and health included photographs, followed by links. The results show the importance of social media platforms in providing health information to older adults, especially during periods of isolation.
The New England Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine collaborated with the Healthy Maine Partnerships to train rural older adults in Western Maine to successfully access and evaluate health information online. Trainings were delivered at community-based health centers, and special exhibits were held during a conference hosted by SeniorsPlus, a local Area Agency on Aging.
Participants received instruction about MedlinePlus and PubMed and were also introduced to the National Institute on Aging’s website. Program results were measured through a pre-/post-test and one-month follow-up survey. Survey questions addressed participants’ awareness, knowledge, and use of resources as well as access to computers. Findings demonstrated that participants had increased confidence to locate, evaluate, and use health information. A greater number of older adults returned to the websites or sent family members to the websites following the training.
For more information about training older adults to locate and use online health information, visit Information for Librarians and Trainers.
Understand Your Audience: Older Adults: Contents