Read an interesting article yesterday from JASIS&T which covered usability for seniors in two domains: first, the article talks about how seniors get information about drugs, and then it talks about how they look for information about drugs within two specific web sites.
Given, Ruecker, et al write about an study they did on Inclusive Interface Design for Seniors: Image-browsing for a Health Information Context in the Sept. 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. While seniors are prescribed drugs by their doctors, they rarely call their physicians for drug-related information, even though "seniors are particularly prone to negative drug interactions, hospitalizations, addictions, etc. as a result of improperly identifying their medications" (many recent articles support this).
Instead, seniors are more likely to get drug & drug interaction information from their pharmacist, followed by contacting "personal contacts" (friends and family, "especially those working in the health care field." Note that libraries don't show up on this list of trusted information sources.
Seniors like using the Internet for find health / drug information, but they are aware of the potential accuracy / bias problems that exist on the Web, including the "difficulties sorting out drug 'ads' from truly informational Web sites."
The authors tested a couple of interfaces with a group of 12 seniors to see how different sites met their needs with respect to identifying specific pills. A major problem that seniors have using the Web is physiological: difficulty reading small font, trouble distinguishing colors and even small shapes -- which is especially important when trying to find "their" medication on a Web site. And as frequently happens when doing usability testing, the participants often didn't see the "affordances" on the page, such as a "zoom" feature, while others didn't see the "sort" button.
The study itself was an interesting insight into how older folks use Web sites, especially one that is geared to them, and to addressing one of their serious information needs.
I read it thinking ,"how can libraries market their services to seniors?" Here are a couple of ideas: provide local pharmacists with information about the public library -- hours / phone number / contact information, maybe a handout with selected health resources available through the library -- telling the seniors, via a trusted resource -- how we in the library can help them. Perhaps we could put this in emergency rooms also? I don't know what the protocols are, but ... that's where seniors are, and when they need health information. And aren't we good at providing information to people, when they need it?
For More Information
Given, Lisa, Stan Ruecker et al. Inclusive Interface Design for Seniors: Image-browsing for a Health Information Context Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Volume 58, Issue 11 (September 2007), pp: 1610 - 1617. Link to abstract; full-text available only with subscription, or check out Interlibrary Loan.