Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Online Social Networking Helps Boomers Meet Peers with Similar Health Concerns


(ARA) - Want advice on how to train for a marathon or treat depression? Baby boomers are increasingly finding answers to these kinds of health questions online, and not necessarily just on medical Web sites. They’re finding health information, personal stories and support on social networking sites where members engage directly with other members through private messages and online groups.

As boomers fully embrace the concept of social networking online, they are discovering an even more powerful medical resource at their fingertips -- the ability to find peers with similar health issues and goals who uniquely understand their life-stage and situations. These online peers can offer valuable encouragement and emotional support at a time when the person seeking health guidance may not have someone in their offline world to speak with candidly about their health goals or concerns.

Conversational Health

The largest online community for baby boomers,, has more than 700,000 members, many of whom are engaging in the online trend of “conversational health,” the concept of social networking around a health issue. The boomers participating in groups on are eager to share their health challenges and successes and learn from one another.

“Conversational health is a very therapeutic process for many people. Normalizing someone’s experience can help add years to their life,” says longevity expert Dr. Tom Perls, a physician and researcher in the study of aging at Boston University Medical School. “The process is made even more effective when groups like boomers, who are at similar life-stages, share thoughts, feelings and information.”

Health Care Communication for Health Issues

In the past year, 34 percent of adult online users (54 million people) in the United States connected to others online or to content that others created online about health issues, according to a report by Jupiter Research. Seventeen percent of “online health connectors” said they used the Internet “to get emotional support” for a health condition.

“Proactive health is important to boomers who stand to live 20 years longer on average than their grandparents did,” says Internet entrepreneur and CEO/founder Jeff Taylor who coined the term “conversational health.” “In addition to diseases or health conditions that have already occurred, boomers are sharing tips on healthy living, from losing weight to exercise to a vegetarian way of life.”

Real time groups address health issues relating to cancer, diabetes, smoking, weight loss and nutrition. These groups become 24/7 support networks for people who may need someone to talk to, no matter what time of day.

People with lesser-known ailments are especially finding comfort in groups that address topics such as fibromyalgia, which is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in muscles and fatigue.

“I’ve had fibromyalgia for over 25 years and while I have very supportive friends and family, it’s difficult for them to understand what it’s like for me to live with this little-known disease,” says Marge Orozco from Long Beach, Calif. “Thanks to the incredible fibromyalgia community on, I finally have friends who get it. We all strive to be supportive of each other, laugh with each other and, when appropriate, gently scold or nudge each other into taking better care of ourselves. This group has changed the way I see and live my life with fibromyalgia.”

To learn more about conversational health go to

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