Successful aging — computers and the internet

Laurie Orlov AIPatHome AdvisorBy Laurie Orlov

Successful aging is not an oxymoron. First the textbook definition (from “The Realities of Aging, Kinsey/Kart): “aging in which external factors either have a neutral role or counteract the effects of internal aging processes, resulting in little or no decrements in functioning.” Whew. What does that mean?

The AARP Healthy@Home study, which surveyed 907 seniors between 65 and 84, helps boil that down to plain English. They asked responders to identify both the importance and their satisfaction with attributes of successful aging, shown here in descending order of importance, with the first column the percentage who ranked the attribute as very important and the second column indicates the percentage that said they were completely satisfied with that aspect of their life:

*Being in good health 96 28
*Able to do things for myself 95 47
Having friends and family there for me 83 67
Feeling safe and secure 82 59
Having freedom to do what I want 82 56
*Being able to deal with whatever life brings 81 44
*Having enough money to meet my needs 79 37
Staying involved with world/people 66 44
Being able to engage in physical exercise 63 32
Continuing to learn new things 57 40

Those with an asterisk have the biggest point gap – which I would certainly attribute to the fear of the future and perhaps unknown decline. Ironically, the smallest gaps were in aspects controllable in the present — the ability to stay involved with the world/people and continuing to learn knew things.

So what do computers and the internet have to do with this? Everything.  When asked about using a personal computer to stay in touch with others or get information, 73% said it would both give my family/friends peace of mind and save me time. And 67% said that it would be something I can rely on, make me more comfortable, and make me safer.  Yet 42% are using a dial-up service, 69% worry about availability of customer service, and 62% believe it costs too much to install.

We know that acess to fast searching on the web keeps our mind sharp and help us stay informed, that this access helps us learn about health issues and resolution, that e-mail, chat, and forums keep us connected.

So let’s solve this by getting broadband access out to seniors (through community programs or the non-profit agencies that are trying to help them), find low-cost services to configure and maintain fast and low-cost PCs with easy-to-use interfaces.

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Laurie M. Orlov, principal and founder of LMOInsight, analyzes research and trends in the Aging in Place technology market through her website and blog on This includes technologies that are useful in helping the elderly and disabled remain in their home of choice. Laurie is also a member of the AIP@Home Advisory Team.