Does Web Content Empower Aging Seniors and Family Caregivers?

by Carol Marak

In a thought provoking discussion on LinkedIn, a question was posed that led to raised brows and some tension among senior care marketers in the group. We were not at a loss for opinions and I admit, most made a lot of sense to me. BUT… we, the senior care providers and marketers, are not the right people to answer the question; the right audience is you, readers and inquirers of senior care topics, products, and information! Are you up for it seniors and family caregivers?

Okay, here goes (but remember, marketers are counting on you to give us the scoop because we’re in the dark):

Are seniors getting the information they need to make the best choices for their healthcare needs?

Yep, I told you it was hot and will likely open Pandora’s Box! But marketers are up for it, so we’re widening the audience in this debate to include you.

When searching for senior and healthcare solutions, are you having difficulty finding answers and solutions to your questions? More specifically, do you think you’re given too few options for your healthcare needs, and do you feel that you are left in the dark about the options available to you?

One of the members in the group, Alex, said, “I’ve seen it from the choice of Hospice, Home health, Durable Medical equipment companies, and even nursing and assisted living centers. In 2011 you would think this would be impossible because of the internet. Marketing our services to the senior population is crucial but how to get "directly" to them is one of the issues. Does anyone else see this in their communities?”

So here’s a question to you, seniors and caregivers, what’s your take on “How to get “directly” to you? Are we accomplishing that on the Internet? My summation is, “we, as marketers, are getting in front of you via the web but the information we publish does not accurately address your concerns or questions! Why? Because we don’t know or don’t understand what your questions are! We assume that we do.

Another group member says it so eloquently and spot on, “NO. Access to information of this nature is typically looked for at the time of crisis and not before. As unfortunate as this is, it is the state of our senior care system. As a result, seniors and their families are reliant upon individuals who would appear to have the knowledge, such as social service workers, doctors and other skilled care providers; however those individuals often lack a thorough understanding of the services or access to services that may be available to their patient. This is of course is no fault of their own as the volume of products, services, and companies is overwhelming even to those of us who work in this industry. Without out question, there is a deep fundamental failure in our "CARE" system and at the root are communication and the dissemination of cohesive, accurate information. The internet is always our friend, especially when we are in a hurry; compound being in a hurry with being in crisis and you have a tremendous recipe for disaster.” This summary was given by Barbara.Doesn’t her answer to the problem hit the nail on the head for you?

But, again, it’s not for me to say! That’s where youcome in. Please tell us and set the record straight.Are you getting the information you need to make the best choices for your healthcare needs?

Carol Marak is founder of (, a platform of websites targeting local senior care help for family caregivers and the aging senior they care for.  Carol is a former caregiver for her aging parents. She experienced the frustrations of searching for local elder care help while living at a distance from her loved ones. That’s why she created Carebuzz. She plans to grow the city sites to be a leading local resource for caregivers.

11 Responses

  1. Carol, The feedback I get is "when" someone finally chooses to look for info they can find what they want by digging around. The issue I see as a content provider is that many boomers don't think to "pre-educate" themselves about the issues they will be facing as both they and their parents continue aging.
  2. Carol, You bring up an intriguing question and thought provoking one. I have been involved on the provider side of health care for over 30 years but recently, as my parents have aged, I have begun to appreciate your question from a different perspective. My father has always been a very thorough and very organized individual, especially when it comes to areas that he is unfamiliar with. As a retired engineer, health care is certainly not a subject matter that he is well versed in. As such, he has immersed himself with the pursuit of greater health care knowledge to understand his options. He finds that the more "traditional" information methods-presentations, brochures and meetings are more comfortable and useful to him. While I see him as being fairly comfortable getting online, it's not his "go to" for this subject matter. Part of this is his inability to "see" who he's dealing with online and thus, he's a bit distrustful of the reliability of the information he's getting. We need to be aware that the generation that is currently dealing with senior care issues is one that does not have the same comfort level with technology as the younger generations who have grown up with it and accept it as a reliable source of information. As a provider, I have to accept that our current efforts to reach the consumer online will bear fruit over time while challenging ourselves to constantly improve our delivery of that information.
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  8. I have just moved into a 50+ community to live with my 92 year old mom. One of the things I have noticed is that the older seniors say 70 and above are not computer savy,. They don't have computers in their houses, they don't want computers in their houses. So gettng to them thru the web is not an option. They read, they go to bingo, and they do their activities at the club house. If you can figure out a way to meet them in their world that would be the best way to get the information to them. Lots of stubborn, set in their ways types of people so you have to give them all the information so they can make up their minds., '
  9. Carolyn and Craig, Powerful comments about aging parents. We're in that situation, too - and it's very hard to know where to find trusted information. There are studies showing that 85% of us (regardless of age) use Google to find health information, rather than going directly to a trusted site like the Mayo Clinic or John's Hopkins. Still, there is hope, Carolyn - and here's a charming and short 2 minute video from AARP that shows that the older generation is actually embracing computers more than we may think -
  10. Your Message<a href="#comment-6641" rel="nofollow">@Stan Cohen:</a> <a href="#comment-6641" rel="nofollow">@Stan Cohen:</a> Hi Stan, yes I do agree about pre-planning. But quite honestly I don't count on that ever happening! So, maybe providers have to do more of the pre-planning for them. I suspect families don't have time and know where to begin. But you did bring up a thought provoking topic. Thank you. I will use it in a post - maybe the next one I do at ElderCare ABC blog. Stay tuned. Carol .
  11. Your Message<a href="#comment-6643" rel="nofollow">@Craig Fukushima:</a> I love your comment Craig, thank you. Both you and Stan bring up some concerns for senior care providers... how to create a trusting mix of info both online and off. Maybe the starting point would be create online content that illustrates authenticity and then connecting it to local information.. like download our brochure or visit our office or come to our open house... what do you think, Craig? Carol @
  12. Your Message<a href="#comment-6650" rel="nofollow">@carolyn norulak:</a> <a href="#comment-6653" rel="nofollow">@Michael Benidt:</a> Great point, Carolyn. I too believe that older adults are feeling more comfortable using computers. That's good. But as Carolyn suggests, we do need to explore ways to connect with older seniors. A good method is through the family members helping them. Providers need to figure out who their audience is - ultimately it is the elderly and the best way to gain their trust is starting with the family member. I love the comments. Thank you. Carol Marak @ Carebuzz
  13. Carol, I agree with you that the starting point would be to have a more traditional online experience for those seniors who are not as comfortable with Web 2.0. The key thing you identify is content creation which is the backbone to every site. Without outstanding content, any site will flounder and not reach the consumer. If a site has consistently fresh and high quality content, it highly likely that there will be high traffic and a high level of confidence in the site's authenticity. This will in turn create a higher likelihood of action by the visitor, whether that might be downloading a brochure or actually visiting the community. That said, there's a portion of this that falls outside the influence of the provider. If the consumer is just not comfortable with the internet and resists any online experience, then efforts by the provider online will be ineffective. However, we also know that the boomer generation is increasingly engaging the online experience and thus, technology will definitely play an increasing role in health care.
  14. Seniors today have some wonderful tools online at their disposal when it comes to Medicare decisions. I have to admit that is much better than it used to be. Seniors can now compare Medicare Advantage plans, Part D plans, and can even compare the level of care at different facilities. Check it out if you haven't recently!