Wednesday, August 09, 2000

Internet sites offer advice for seniors

By Craig Stoltz
Washington Post

        The fact that seniors tend to have more free time on their hands than others does not mean they want to spend it aimlessly noodling on an Internet info-hunt.

        We found five sites we know to be good places to start seeking health information on topics of likely interest to seniors.


        We nearly decided not to bother listing any other sites after spending a few hours with the remarkably well-edited MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

        Go to the home page, choose “Seniors' Health” from the pull-down menu, hit “Go” and you'll see a list of links on most topics you're likely to want. Each link launches an intelligently culled and recently updated list of resources on the topic, drawn mostly from government, academic and non-profit sites, meaning the information is largely free of the commercial bias that pervades the Web. Each topic features a box that launches a search of the powerful Medline database, which produces a list of the recent journal articles on the topic.


        If MedlinePlus directs you to the most credible health sources, Quackwatch will help protect you from the countless attempts to sell unproven, unsafe, illegal or worthless treatments and products.

        It's an effective counterweight to the many sales pitches coming your way. Complaints: The site isn't always updated with the latest information. And to get to the good stuff, you have to scroll down the home page to “Questionable Products, Services and Theories.”


        Unlike the in-depth resources of MedlinePlus, HealthScout offers brief news reports on health topics, but it's a great way to check out recent media coverage of conditions and diseases. On the positive side, the material is recent and aimed at a general readership; on the negative, it can be shallow and inconsistent.


        It's hardly a surprise that this site makes the list, but the national senior lobby's Web site offers a very useful, blissfully brief gathering of health stories from its Modern Maturity magazine, plus other informative pieces aimed at seniors' health-care interests.


        Frankly, this site isn't as medically info-rich as others, but it embeds such a daring and provocative conceit that it's worth looking at. Unlike senior sites that tend to presume infirmity, disease and declining options, ThirdAge aims at active, aging empty-nesters in their 40s through 60s with resources dedicated to healthy, vigorous, stimulating pre- and post-retirement years.


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