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It’s time to rethink the way we provide information to older Australians

Despite the digital revolution of the 21st Century, a new report has revealed that many older Australians still choose to turn to friends, family and health professionals for insight into ageing, rather than the internet.

Older Australians prefer to look to GPs rather than the internet for guidance and support when it comes to information about their future (Source: Shutterstock)

The report, A Little Help from My Friends: Getting good advice in the Information Age, by seniors advocacy group National Seniors, shows that although the ‘information age’ has revolutionised information delivery, and that while many are in fact tech savvy, the majority of older people making important decisions about retirement will favour humans over going online.

Using the findings of the National Seniors survey of its members, who are aged over 50, the report also reveals that 70 percent of older Australians choose their GP or medical specialist as their “most preferred” source of health and lifestyle information, with 55 percent shown to favour their financial advisor for financial information about retirement.

National Seniors Australia’s Dr Karen Rees says the report has “important implications” for how older Australians planned for and made vital financial, health and lifestyle decisions once retired, adding that the findings also have “huge implications” for governments and other key service providers, such as banks, superannuation funds and utility companies.

“What this tells us is that despite many people, regardless of age, having the skills to find information online, and often using the internet as a resource, they still prefer to consult trusted people when making vital decisions,” Dr Rees explains.

“This means that governments and other key service providers can’t just put information on a website and think their job is done.

“They must continue to provide information face-to-face, in print and by telephone if they want to ensure their services are used and the needs of people, especially, are met.”

The research also shows that older Australians are savvy with who they go to for what information and when, with the use of GPs and specialists for health and lifestyle information increasing with age, while instances of going to family and friends and using websites decreases.

“We know from our research, workshops and other contact with our members, that reliable health and financial information, along with how connected they are, impacts healthy ageing,” Dr Rees says.

“So, if we want older people to remain independent, healthy and happy, we need to ensure they can access information easily and in a format that suits them.”

Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt says the results of the report do not surprise him, adding that he regularly hears similar stories from the seniors he visits right across the nation.

“This was a key feature of my recent address to the National Press Club… it is also backed by the Department of Health’s regular market research among seniors, so I know how important it is to them to talk to their friends, family members, GPs and other professionals in making key decisions about their future,” Minister Wyatt explains.

“I’m also very much aware that not every older person is confident online.”

Minister Wyatt says he is also conscious of the need to provide information and access for those whose first language isn’t English or who have hearing impairments.

He makes note of a number of national organisations that are able to help older Australians from all walks of life to make decisions regarding their future and assist them in accessing information, such as the National Relay Service, My Aged Care, and the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN).


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