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Say 'Aaah' | YOUR HEALTH ONLINE

Aging's Issues Given Different Treatment

August 07, 2000

AgeNet.com

Overview: AgeNet was launched in 1995 by two businessmen with experience marketing to seniors, one as an advertiser and the other as an executive in the retirement housing industry. The site is meant to "bridge the distance between aging parents and adult children" and has links to companies providing medical and personal-care products, and firms offering financial services, legal advice and other help. It also provides general health content, including news updates, and information on drugs and diseases.

What works: The site is an excellent primer on the language and issues surrounding elder care, ranging from living wills and insurance coverage to at-home nursing care and Alzheimer's treatment. You can learn a lot quickly by just poking around, and without having to buy anything or look at much advertising. The Geriatric Drug Review page is particularly good, with comments on 250 commonly used drugs, arranged according to the conditions they treat. For caregivers, the site includes checklists to help decide such big questions as "When do I take the car keys away?" and "When is it time to start thinking of a retirement home?"

What doesn't: The health information has little depth; some items that look to be feature articles turn out to be ads for books or other products, and the news coverage is spotty. Visitors who want to know more about subjects will find few links taking them off the page to other sources. Most surprising, there is no stated privacy policy. Co-founder Doug Hennig says the site doesn't share personal information with third parties. But you'll be asked to volunteer such information to outside companies if you order a product through the site.

Healthandage.com

Overview: The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis (formed in 1997 from the merger of drug makers Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz) started Healthandage.com in 1998, as part of its Foundation for Gerontology, which provides money for research. The site is meant to be used as a general resource for researchers, health care providers and consumers.

What works: For all-purpose health information and news relevant to aging, it's hard to do better than Healthandage.com. The site has a link to Reuters health news and does its own summaries of medical journal articles. The summaries are written by a doctor, who names the original source of the information. Doctors also write most of the site's feature articles, which are timely, straightforward and often offer practical suggestions on how to cope with an Alzheimer's sufferer, for example, or how to check yourself for caregiver "burnout." You'll also find good background on major diseases of aging, along with links to other sites to learn more. And no advertising.

What doesn't: Though balanced and impartial, the articles are also impersonal--as if written for other doctors. This site is not the place to hear stories about people and their experiences with disease. Healthandage.com soon may not be a place for free information, either. Along the margins of its home page, the site is surveying visitors to see how many would pay for membership; or rather, accept banner advertising.

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