Survey: Aging Americans' use of Internet to increase

Share this content:

Online resources for health and long-term care services may play a much larger role in the aging population in the coming years, according to researchers studying seniors' computer habits.

Less than one-third of seniors aged 65 and older said they had ever accessed online resources, but more than 70% of those aged 50 to 64 years old said they had, according to results of a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Wednesday. Kaiser interviewed 1,450 randomly selected adults aged 50 and older, 583 of them 65 and older. Their responses showed a striking difference between seniors and "next generation seniors" when it comes to online use.

While only 21% of seniors have gone online to look for health Information, 53% of 50 to 64 year-olds have. Additionally, seniors rank the Internet as No. 5 on a list of media sources of health information compared to the No. 1 ranking given by those aged 50 to 64 years old.

The survey also discovered that seniors with an annual household income under $20,000 a year are less likely to use the Internet (15%) than those with incomes between $20,000-49,000 (40%) or higher (65%). Most seniors on Medicare fall into that lowest income, and less than 10% have an income of $50,000 or more. 

The survey -- "e-health and the Elderly: How Seniors Use the Internet for Health" – was conducted in March 2004 and April 2004 and highlights the need for a national discussion on how to get seniors online, according to Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.