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The effect of age on the use of health and self-care information: confronting the stereotype.

Wagner LS, Wagner TH. The effect of age on the use of health and self-care information: confronting the stereotype. The Gerontologist. 2003 Jun 1; 43(3):318-24.

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PURPOSE: Given stereotypes of older adults, there is the perception that older adults will not use health information technologies. One concern is that practitioners might shy away from providing older patients with health information, and in particular, computerized information. The study's primary objective was to evaluate whether a health information intervention had a differential effect for people of different ages. DESIGN AND METHODS: Quasi-experimental survey data from an assessment of a communitywide informational intervention were used. People were asked about their use of medical reference books, telephone advice nurses, or computers for health information in the past few months. In total, 5,909 surveys were completed. RESULTS: The data show that older adults were no less likely (and were sometimes more likely) to use health information as a result of the intervention than younger adults. For telephone advice nurses and computers, the effect of the intervention was not significantly different for the different age groups. Yet, compared with persons 18-29 years of age, those over the age of 65 had a 17-percentage point increase in using a self-care book. IMPLICATIONS: We find convincing evidence to counter the stereotype that older adults are resistant to trying new health information technologies.

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