Innovative Website Helps Seniors Take Medicines Safely


Alison Davis, NIGMS

How can I remember details about all of the medicines the doctor prescribed for me?  Does aging affect how the body processes medicines?  Are there ways to avoid side effects?  What is the "grapefruit juice effect?"  Answers to these questions and more about the safe use of medicines now are only a mouse click away on the senior-friendly government Web site called NIHSeniorHealth.

The site has clear, reliable information about medicines and your body, taking medications safely, and research to develop tomorrow's medicines.  People age 65 and older take more prescription and over-the-counter medicines than any other age group.  Older people as a group tend to have more long-term, chronic illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. 

"Many older Americans owe their health in part to new and improved medicines, but using them may be riskier for older adults, especially when several medicines are used at one time," says Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), which developed the content for the safe use of medicines topic on the Web site.  "To help avoid risk, older Americans now can turn to NIHSeniorHealth for accurate, helpful information about how to take medicines safely and manage them wisely."

One of the fastest growing age groups using the Internet, older Americans increasingly turn to the World Wide Web for health information.  In fact, 66 percent of "wired" seniors surf for health and medical information when they go online.  NIHSeniorHealth, a joint effort of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), was designed especially with seniors in mind.  The senior-friendly site is based on the latest research on cognition and aging.  It features short, easy-to-read segments of information that can be accessed in a variety of formats, including various large-print type sizes, open-captioned videos, and even a talking version.  Additional topics coming soon to the site include shingles, problems with taste and smell, eye diseases, stroke, and osteoporosis.  The site links to MedlinePlus, NLM's premier, more detailed site for consumer health information. 

The NIA leads the Federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people.  The NLM, the world'​s largest library of the health sciences, creates and sponsors Web-based health information resources for the public and professionals.  The NIGMS supports basic biomedical research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.  All three are components of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.