Australians rely on ‘a little help from their friends’

A new report from National Seniors Australia has shown that when it comes to getting good advice in the ‘information age’, older people favour humans over going online.

The report, released this week, shows that while digital technology has revolutionised information delivery, older people making important decisions about retirement first turn to trusted health and financial professionals or family and friends.

While many are digitally savvy, their reliance on web-based information not only rates a poor second, but well down the list to human sources of expertise and advice.

National Seniors Australia’s Dr Karen Rees said the report, titled A Little Help from My Friends: Getting good advice in the Information Age, had important implications for how older Australians planned for and made vital financial, health and lifestyle decisions once retired.

She said the National Seniors’ survey of its members, who are aged over 50, revealed that 70 percent chose their GP or medical specialist as their most preferred source of health and lifestyle information, and 55 percent their financial adviser for financial information about retirement.

“They are savvy about the people with skills they require. The use of GPs and specialists for health and lifestyle information increases with age while going to family and friends decreases and using websites decreases further,” Dr Rees said.

“This is despite 90 percent of respondents using a computer daily for email, internet or other tasks.”

Dr Rees said the findings had huge implications for governments and other key service providers, such as banks, superannuation funds and utility companies.

“What this tells us is that despite many people, regardless of age, having the skills to find information online, and often using the internet as a resource, they still prefer to consult trusted people when making vital decisions,” Dr Rees said.

“This means that governments and other key service providers can’t just put information on a website and think their job is done. They must continue to provide information face-to-face, in print and by telephone if they want to ensure their services are used and the needs of older people, especially, are met.

“We know from our research, workshops and other contact with our members, that reliable health and financial information, along with how connected that are, impacts healthy ageing.

“So, if we want older people to remain independent, healthy and happy, we need to ensure they can access information easily and in a format that suits them.”

Read the full report here.

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