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NIA, NLM Launch Senior Health Web Site

People 60 and older constitute the fastest growing group of Internet users in the United States. So isn't it time they had their own web site for reliable health information?

NIH has answered with an enthusiastic "Yes!" by launching (, a new talking web site with formats and topics tailored to the needs of older people. The senior-friendly site takes advantage of techniques developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine designed to encourage older people to use the Internet, and this site in particular, as a resource for the best information on health and medical research.

The site was unveiled at a recent Capitol Hill briefing requested by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). Harkin, whose state is among those with a high percentage of people age 65 and older, said, "As our population ages, good health will be important on both a policy and personal level. For all of us, that starts with the right information on prevention and treatment, which NIH is now providing seniors by means of this new and innovative web site."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) sits down at a laptop in a Capitol Hill briefing room to practice using His instructors are (from l) NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes, NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg and Joyce Backus of NLM's web management team.

NIA and NLM brought together researchers who study cognition, web site designers and communications experts to fashion a site that is easy for older adults to read, understand, remember and navigate. The site features large print and short, easy-to-read segments of information repeated in a variety of formats such as open-captioned videos and short quizzes to increase the likelihood it will be remembered. Consistent page layout and prompts help older adults move from one place to another on the site without feeling lost or overwhelmed. Each topic provides general background information, quizzes, frequently asked questions (FAQs), open-captioned video clips, transcripts for the videos, and photos and illustrations with captions. also has a "talking" function, which allows users the option of reading the text or listening to it as it is read to them. Finally, in addition to being senior-friendly, the new site complies with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, making it accessible for persons with disabilities.

Because the risk of many diseases increases with age, site sponsors are focusing on topics of particular interest to older people, including Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, balance problems, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, exercise for older adults, hearing loss, lung cancer and prostate cancer. In coming months, topics will include aphasia, diabetes, falls, osteoporosis, sensory loss and vision changes, among others.

Along with NIA and NLM, many other NIH components contribute topics to the site. is expected to serve as a model for web designers seeking to make sites accessible for older adults. NIA and NLM have developed a booklet, Making Your Web Site Senior Friendly: A Checklist, which gives guidelines that can be used to update any web site with cognitive aspects of aging in mind. To order a copy or to get more information about the web site, contact Stephanie Dailey, (301) 496-1752 or Kathy Cravedi, (301) 496-6308.

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