People can get information about thousands of long-term care facilities, support groups, hospice providers and at-home health care providers across the state by going to the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon’s website and searching through its on-line database.
But the connection’s staff learned not everybody in their targeted demographic — namely people who are 65 and older — used this resource because they didn’t want to or didn’t know how to surf the Internet. Starting today, the ADRC has a toll-free number people can call to get the same information available on the group’s website.
“It’s what our consumers wanted and that’s what we’re doing," ADRC spokeswoman Kristi Murphy said. “What we heard is that people wanted to talk to someone. ~ While it was nice to have the Internet available, when they had questions, they wanted to talk to someone."
Murphy said the new phone service should help her agency’s local offices, which received 30,000 calls last year from people looking for help.
Whether it’s by choice or other reasons, 26 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 and 59 percent of those who were 65 or older did not use the Internet last year, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. About a fourth of the country’s total adult population didn’t use the Internet, according to the study, which was based on phone calls made in July and August 2011.
The study found 31 percent of nonInternet users didn’t use it because they weren’t interested, 12 percent didn’t use it because they didn’t have a computer, 10 percent said it was too expensive, 9 percent said it was too difficult, 6 percent said they didn’t have access, 6 percent said they didn’t have time to learn how to use it and 4 percent said they were too old to learn how to use it.
Matt Kinshella, communications director for the Oregon 2-1-1 Network, an assistance line for people of all ages, said the low Internet usage rates among seniors and other pose a particular challenge to groups like his and ARDC that try to connect people with various social service organizations in times of need.
“We try to reach everybody with the tools we have," Kinshella said, adding that most people contact the network to get information about rent and energy assistance programs, food stamps and food boxes, low-cost health-care services and emergency shelter services.
The 2-1-1 Network’s website gets about 150,000 visits a year and its phone lines are just as busy, Kinshella said.