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Consumer Health Information Seeking in the Elderly


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This summarizes the findings of a literature review I did. Much wordier than I like my presentations to be, but the PPT content was a graded assignment for an online class, and I had some format restrictions.

Published in: Health & Medicine, Education
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Consumer Health Information Seeking in the Elderly

  1. 1. Consumer Health Information Seeking in the Elderly<br />A Summary Through Questions and Answers<br />Lisa Philpotts<br />UNC School of Information and Library Science<br />INLS 500-02W<br />Health Information!<br />
  2. 2. How were studies chosen?<br />My population was defined by these 3 criteria:<br />Being elderly, which I define as fitting into NLM’s MeSH categories of Aged (persons 65-79 years old) and Aged, 80 and Over.<br />Being consumers (members of the public).<br />Being those who need or seek health information.<br />
  3. 3. What methods are used to study aged consumer health seekers?<br />Cross-sectional surveys to assess behaviors or attitudes<br />Qualitative studies incorporating interviews with patrons<br />Focus groups<br />Studies may involve a patron performing a task (searching for health information or attending a workshop) and giving feedback on the task<br />The goal is to learn from the patrons themselves what their health information needs and wants are!<br />
  4. 4. What do the elderly want to know regarding health?<br />If people wish to know what the health information needs of these older people are, my initial suggestion is that they should go and ask them. – Lynette Cawthra<br /><ul><li>The elderly are interested in a wide variety of health topics, just like any other age group. May be unaware that they have health information needs until asked.
  5. 5. Topics of interest mentioned in studies included all of the following: Prescription drug info, nutrition, exercise, weight control, diseases (cancer, heart disease, arthritis, mental health conditions, to name a few), wellness, self-help groups, treatment options, safety in the home, support information for carers., finding a good doctor or nursing home.Whew!! </li></li></ul><li>What is the portrait of a typical aged person searching for health info?<br />Most likely highly educated, well off, white, and female.<br />Likes and trusts health info from a face to face source<br />Turns to friends and family first, then professionals<br />Is interested in health information in a variety of formats<br />May not use the internet to seek information, but is interested and willing to learn. Finds workshops on this topic helpful.<br />
  6. 6. How are the elderly different when compared to other age groups when it comes to seeking health information?<br />May have more barriers to seeking health information than younger populations: see next slide!<br />Less likely to seek health information from medical establishments, but just as likely to seek health information from friends, family, and the media.<br />More likely to have an “external locus of control” and believe that health decisions should be in the hands of their healthcare providers<br />No clear consensus on whether the elderly are more likely to utilize health information that they obtain when compared to youth<br />
  7. 7. What are barriers to seeking health information for the elderly?<br />Ageism from healthcare providers<br />Frustration/anxiety with technology<br />Psychological barriers (coping by not seeking health info)<br />Cognitive impairments<br />Physical impairments (vision and hearing)<br />Lack of technical skills<br />Health information presented at an inappropriate reading level<br />Language barriers<br />
  8. 8. What are suggestions for library practice?<br />Assumptions about health topics the elderly are interested in should not be made since their interests are far ranging! Consider the chronic health conditions affecting your specific population, or ask the group you’re teaching what they’re interested in. I’ve done this when working with the public- the elderly I have worked with are eager to voice their concerns when prompted! <br />For aged patrons under the care of someone else, always ask the patron themselves, not just the carer, about information needs. Carers can misinterpret patrons’ health info needs or project their own needs onto the patron.<br />Print and electronic materials for the elderly should be written without medical jargon and presented simply. Large fonts, high contrast colors, and visuals are all helpful.<br />A variety of formats of information should be available to patrons. Print materials to reinforce points taught face to face are appreciated.<br />The digital divide between young and old is narrowing, and the aged have been shown to appreciate workshops on finding health information on the internet. Offering these workshops through public libraries may be helpful.<br />Be patient, encouraging, and don’t assume that the aged are incapable of learning!<br />Market and be proactive! The aged may turn to friends and family for needed health information and may not be aware that their friendly librarian may be of assistance!<br />
  9. 9. What are some selected sources to learn more on the topic?<br />Bennett, J. A. et al (2009). Differences between older and younger cancer survivors in seeking cancer information and using complementary/alternative medicine. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24(10), 1089-1094.<br />There’s quite a bit of research on information seeking habits of aged cancer patients. This study in particular looks for differences between information seeking in older and younger cancer patients and their utilization of that information.<br />Cawthra, L. (1999). Older people&apos;s health information needs. Health Libraries Review, 16(2), 97-105.<br />An older, but insightful paper on the topic. I loved a quote from this paper so much that I stuck it in the presentation!<br />Chang, S. J. et al. (2008). Older korean people&apos;s desire to participate in health care decision making. Nursing Ethics, 15(1), 73-86. <br />Although focusing on Koreans, Chang et al’s paper provides useful commentary and a review of the literature that is useful to those providing health information to elders in all countiries.<br />Friedman, D. B., et al. (2009). Getting the message out about cognitive health: A cross-cultural comparison of older adults&apos; media awareness and communication needs on how to maintain a healthy brain. The Gerontologist, 49 Suppl 1, S50-60. <br />Though written from a public health viewpoint, this study by Friedman et al reveals many insights about how the aged obtain health information through interesting interviews with a diverse population of seniors. <br />Given, L. M. et al. (2007). Inclusive interface design for seniors: Image-browsing for a health information context. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(11), 1610-1617. <br />This study explores how to design user friendly websites for seniors.<br />Gollop, C. J. (1997). Health information-seeking behavior and older africanamerican women. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 85(2), 141-146. <br />UNC’s own Claudia Gollop is interested in consumer health information seeking, and her work has been cited by various others<br />Xie, B., & Bugg, J. M. (2009). Public library computer training for older adults to access high-quality internet health information. Library & Information Science Research, 31(3), 155-162. <br />This significant study provided encouraging results about the usefulness of workshops on finding health information offered to the elderly in public libraries <br />
  10. 10. References<br />For a bibliography of sources used in my literature review (and this slideshow), please go to<br />All images courtesy of Microsoft. <br />