Web Site Aimed at Health Care for Seniors

Aug. 26, 2002
Santa Barbara News-Press
By THOMAS SCHULTZ

SOLVANG, Calif. - Santa Barbara health care leaders hope to connect with a demographic snugly nestled among the smallest of the computer industry’s niche markets.

A network designed to help senior citizens find medical resources recently went online and will debut officially on Wednesday. The site can be found at http://santabarbara.networkofcare.org/.

Authorities appear confident the venture can succeed despite its reliance on the Internet, a technology embraced by children, trumpeted by young adults, bankrolled by baby boomers-and often ignored by senior citizens.

Santa Barbara County’s new “Network of Care” site also aims to provide a wealth of information to disabled residents and medical caregivers, in addition to a variety of organizations that deliver health care to the community.

“The purpose is to make a range of resources in the community available,” said Kathy Gallagher, deputy director of adult and aging programs for the county Social Services Department.

Nationwide, an estimated 13 percent of Americans age 65 or older have Internet access, compared to 65 percent of those 30 or younger, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a recent study of online trends.

Just 27 percent of Americans older than 60 have access to computers at home, or at work, compared to 78 percent of those 30 or younger, according to the Pew project.

Still, planners of the Network of Care site say even seniors who never touch a computer keyboard will benefit, in part because family members hundreds of miles away will be able to locate local goods and services with a click of the mouse.

“Somebody in San Jose could access this site, find assistive devices,” Ms. Gallagher said.

And when turning to the Internet for help, she added, Web surfers “can use the Network of Care as a single source.”

Funded in part by a $40,000 grant from the state Department of Aging, the Network of Care site is an $80,000 project fashioned after predecessors in Sacramento and Alameda counties.

For Santa Barbara, the new Web site contains information or tips on service agencies, assistive devices, financial management strategies, new policy initiatives, contact numbers for elected officials and personal record keeping.

Developed and maintained by Trilogy Integrated Resources LLC, the site will be constantly updated and contain a directory of at least 327 local service providers, in addition to information on diseases, case management, daily news on aging and disabilities from around the globe, and large print in three languages-English, Spanish and Cantonese, with several more to be added.

“Network of Care will help people find the resources they need without having to waste a lot of time searching,” state Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson said in a statement. “It will also provide invaluable assistance to service providers, who must serve their clients within a fragmented system.”

Health care leaders will officially launch the site at a 3 p.m. kick-off event on Wednesday at the Royal Scandinavian Inn in Solvang. For more information, call Rhonda MacDonald at 346-7286.