Category Archives: 50+ Internet

Go Online, Get Happy and Healthy!

A report just released by the PHOENIX CENTER POLICY PAPER SERIES indicates that Internet usage can significantly reduce depression among older adults.  Of course, since I’m writing this and you’re reading it, we are in the minority of older adults who are already online (42% of people over 65).  Chances are you, like me, regularly use the Internet to manage your money and health, keep up with the news, shop and share stuff.   You may also have joined one of the many social networks and now have a host of online friends.  You stay in touch with distant family and friends, sending photos and your favorite You Tube videos.  For me, all of this now seems as natural as breathing and I have to remind myself how relatively new the marvelous Internet is.  But I didn’t know that I was also keeping myself — and the economy — healthy by doing all these things until I came across this report.

Here are some interesting facts about depression and the older population:

  • latelife depression affects about six million Americans age 65 and older
  • depression is estimated to cost the United States about $100 billion
  • included in this figure is direct medical cost (31%) and latelife suicide (7%)

Here’s an excerpt of the the abstract:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directs over $7 billion to expand broadband Internet availability and adoption in the United States. One target of such funding is the elderly population, a group of Americans for which broadband adoption is relatively low. An interesting question is what benefits do such efforts
afford? We employ a dataset of over 7,000 elderly retired persons to evaluate the role of Internet use on mental well-being…using the eight-point depression scale developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES-D)…All procedures indicate a positive contribution of Internet use to mental well-being of elderly Americans, and estimates indicate that Internet use leads to about a 20% reduction in depression classification.

On the chance that Pseudo-R2 Analysis of Matching Algorithms are your thing, the full report is available in a pdf file,  see link in opening line.

In the meantime, do your patriotic duty.  Surf on!  And invite the Internet holdouts among your buddies to jump in.  The water’s fine.

Getting Hip Via the Internet

Symptoms are God’s way of telling us that we need to pay attention to our bodies.  So when Howard began to experience severe pain and weakness in his lower back, he immediately sought medical help.  He went from one specialist to another, was prescribed painkillers and physical therapy, which helped some, but the problem didn’t clear up.  Then our own general practitioner, an MD and homeopathic physician, came up with the correct diagnosis: It’s your hips. It made perfect sense: he was 72; he had been athletic most of his life, a tennis player and runner, both of which are notoriously hard on the hip joints.

The next step will be familiar to many of you: Howard turned to the Internet to research hip replacement options.  Some 122 million Americans — 56% of the population — are doing just that, according to a Center for Studying Health System Change report.  And while the so-called ‘elderly’ 65 and older trail their younger counterparts in using the Internet to seek advice on their health, this remains one of the fastest growing categories of Internet use.  Take Web MD, for example (we do!), which has a handy symptom checker that can either compel you to seek immediate medical advice if your symptoms are not worrisome enough in themselves, or calm you down enough to think clearly.  As a smart person of a certain age, you don’t need a professional to recognize that chest pain, shortness of breath and/or dizziness require emergency response.

Howard’s story has a good outcome.  He remembered having read that tennis star, Jimmy Connors, was back on the courts after having a hip replaced.  So he Googled “Jimmy Connors’s hip” and voila! Jimmy’s New Hip, a website with all the information he needed about the Wright CONSERVE Total Hip.  Intrigued, he next researched (using the Internet again) who in our area of South Florida was working with this hip replacement system  He discovered that a young surgeon named Vincent Fowble was regularly performing this surgery at Jupiter Medical Center.  Several appointments, consultations and X-Rays later, Howard was scheduled for the first of two hip replacement surgeries that have essentially gotten him back on the tennis court. Without the Internet, this would have taken longer, and cost him time and more pain.

You may have heard that some MDs look askance at self-diagnosing and, if you were to proceed to act on that information alone, you’re running a risk of getting it wrong.  Like I tell my yoga students, while yoga offers many health benefits, it is not intended as a substitute for competent medical advice.  Ditto, the Internet.

Collective Wisdom

Even before the current hubbub about social networking as a source of insider information and tips, it has been possible to contribute — and read — reviews of products and services via sites like and In fact, the input of ordinary people can build credibility for retailers — or discredit them — and is empowering for both contributors and those who read their reviews. Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, lets anyone with a passion for a subject become an instant expert — at least until his or her entry is challenged and/or edited by someone else.

With its 2 Cents Project, the San Francisco Chronicle hopes to create a pool of citizen-journalists “who agree to be accessible to The Chronicle via e-mail to provide commentary on the news of the day and share their expertise and experiences with our readers.” The project is open only to residents of Northern California (with the exception of Chronicle employees and members of other Bay Area news organizations). Priority is given to those who live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma and Solano counties. But it’s a model we’d like to see replicated elsewhere.

Here’s how it works:

Two Cents correspondents get a shot, says the Chronicle:

  • When news breaks and we need to gather input from people but are constrained by tight deadlines.
  • When traditional means of finding sources for stories fail.When either of these circumstances occur, we e-mail requests for information or commentary to our correspondents and ask them to respond or to forward our e-mails to people they know who are able to respond. Sometimes we contact people who respond to our e-mails and interview them for stories. Sometimes we run a column of correspondents’ comments, along with their name, photo and name of the town they live in.

The new science of predicting success also draws on ‘the collective intelligence” of groups of people. The Hollywood Stock Exchange, for example, is adept at accurately predicting box office success and Oscar nominations. “Nobody knows anything,” concludes James Surowiecki, author of the article (The Science of Success), “But everybody, it turns out, may know something.”

Knock, Knock. Who’s There?

Some week ago, I was asked by a colleague in the aging field to consider serving on a panel on the use of the Internet by the older population, specifically, on how the Internet is creating a new ‘space’ for electronic elders, a la My Space.

No doubt people are jumping into that space. There was considerable buzz about the launch of, the social networking site dedicated to people 50+ (or, it was, but the last time I checked, it was 49+). The zippy slogan, ‘loving the flip side of 50,’ certainly is a grabber, and anything that founder, Jeff Taylor, would create, gets my attention. Eons was attracting money, too: $22M in the most recent round of financing. But from my own experience of writing a newsletter for the age group, I really wondered if there was a need for an age-segmented social networking site.

I signed up for Eons anyway (284 days ago, according to my profile), and joined five different groups — careers for the 50+, home-based business, books, yoga and long-distance grand-parenting — and after some interaction with other group members, I have to wonder along with Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and expert on the social implications of communications technology: “Is being over 50 years old strong enough affinity? I’m not so sure.”

Maybe this is an idea before its time. New research published in Business Week suggests that may be the case. Among the Older Boomers (age 51-61), 8% are involved in social networking, for Seniors (62+), the figure is 6%. A huge generation gap. Yet, 61% and 70% of these same groups, respectively, are ‘on line,’ reading blogs and gathering information. Just not active in social networking. If this describes you, and you want to get your feet wet and see what the hubbub is all about, you might start with Social Networking 101.

And if you are among those entrepreneurs of a certain age who want to connect with your age group for whatever purpose, you could interpret these stats as an opportunity disguised as a problem. In the words of oft-quoted management guru, Peter Drucker: The best way to predict the future is to create it.