How Older Adults Make Health Decisions

Senior man using laptop computer

Provide short, concise health messages that detail the specific action steps your older adult audience should take to achieve the desired health goal.

Older adults are a diverse group of individuals with a unique set of needs and preferences. They often face complex health decisions that involve trade-offs among options that appeal to different values, beliefs, and preferences.

For example, following an evacuation order during a weather event may fit with their need to feel safe and be responsive to local officials’ directions. But evacuation may also separate them from their daily support system, including medical care and informal caregivers. Understanding their situation and what motivates older adults to learn and use health information can help you develop effective health communication materials.

Here are some key things to consider before you begin designing your materials:

  • Make it empowering

    Older adults want control of their health. Frame your messages so older adults feel confident they can use the information in a way that will impact their lives.

    Example:
    CDC’s Steps to Stay Healthy highlights four steps you can take to help you manage your diabetes, avoid complications, and live a long, active life.

  • Make it from a trusted source

    Older adults are more likely to take action when the health message is from a trusted source. Using survey research findings like those from the Health Information National Trends Surveyexternal icon (HINTS) and asking leaders of organizations that serve older adults can help you determine which sources are credible with the seniors in your intended audience.

  • Make it self-directed

    Older adults like to learn new health information through a variety of methods. While some may prefer to receive information through spoken or printed words, others may be visual learners and some, a combination of both. Think about using different approaches to present your information, such as pamphlets, brochures, videos, and audiotapes.

    Example:
    My Transplant Coachexternal icon is an interactive decision aid to help you and your family learn about dialysis and kidney transplant. It explains treatment options and provides information to improve your understanding of them.

  • Make it solution-oriented

    Many older adults do not like being bogged down with tons of health information. They prefer quick and clear solutions to their health issues. Provide short, concise health messages that detail the specific action steps your older adult audience should take to achieve the desired health goal.

 

Page last reviewed: May 17, 2021