Issues addressed: Australia's ageing population is set to become an increasing burden on an already over-stretched primary health care system. Potential strategies to alleviate this pressure need to be investigated. Increased knowledge of older Australians? use of the internet would allow the appropriateness of online health intervention to be assessed. This initial, exploratory study examined the proportion of people aged 55 years and older who accessed the internet. It investigated their duration of use, level of comfort, use of the internet to seek health information and perceived reliability of information found on the internet. Methods: A paper based survey was distributed to a purposive sample of adults in metropolitan New South Wales. Complete data was received from 115 respondents. Results: Sixty-two per cent of respondents reported internet use, with use decreasing with age. The majority of respondents who used the internet reported high confidence levels and long-term use. The majority had used the internet to search for health information which was generally perceived to be reliable. Logistic regression showed tertiary education and household income greater than $40,000 per year predicted use of a computer to access the internet. Conclusions: The majority of older Australians surveyed were successfully riding the internet wave. They have both the skills and equipment to access health information online and many were already doing so.
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