Berger's New Book
Mickey Mantle once said, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."
On Thursday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m. at The Country Bookshop, nationally-known computer expert Sandy Berger, author of "Sandy Berger's Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness," will show baby boomers how to use the Internet to discover healthcare and lifestyle information to help them live longer, healthier lives.
"Health care is one of the leading motivators in getting older people on the Internet," says Berger. "Years ago, people didn't think as much about their health; they went to the doctor, the doctor made his proclamation, and that was that. Now people are talking about their health and researching things, increasingly online."
According to the AARP, senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of the Internet community. The most rapidly growing crowd of Web users is actually over 65, expanding at an annual rate of 16 percent. One of the principal reasons they use the Internet is for information about health.
"We want our latter years to be happier, more exciting, and livelier than those of our ancestors," Berger says. "We realize that to accomplish those goals, we must make health and wellness a priority. To that end, we have taken health and wellness into our own hands. The Internet has become a tool of choice for finding out how to stay healthy, researching disorders and diseases, and obtaining health information. We are using high-tech tools to bring that 'fountain of youth' a little closer to reality. Our goal is not to ignore our doctors and health professionals, but work with them to make our bodies stronger and healthier."
One of the major concerns with older people doing research on the Internet, however, is that they don't realize that all the information is not completely accurate.
"A recent study found much of the content published on health information Web sites offers incomplete, misleading, or difficult to understand data. Numerous sites leave out key information, offer out-of-date content, or publish contradictory facts," says Berger. "Often there is little distinction between advertising and medical advice."
Dr. John Bartlett, chief of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, agrees.
"Anybody can write anything and put it up on the Web," he says. "The drawback is that the peer review system is lost. It takes nine months for a piece to appear in a journal, but you know it's been thoroughly reviewed."
Berger agrees with Dr. David Kirshenbaum, general manager, e-health, Aetna U.S. Healthcare, that "the ideal goal of health care and the Internet is putting someone in a position to act. Consumers will get tired of going to the Internet for a glut of information that does not really enable them to take action."
Dr. Brook Edwards, editor-in-chief, Maycolinic.com, and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, says, "The Internet has become the de facto second opinion. The average doctor visit is now down to about seven minutes. A well-informed consumer can make the most of that time."
In her guidebook Berger provides specific, reliable sites to find information on technology and medical breakthroughs, new assistive technologies, anti-aging products and high-tech weight management tools, and gender-specific health concerns. She also includes information on living wills, preparing for doctors' office visits, the pros and cons to ordering prescriptions online, nutrition, supplements and vitamins, drug interactions, and evaluating medical Web sites.
Gabriel Goldberg of the AARP calls it a "trusted, valuable guidebook," a "Tech Book for Non-Dummies." "Nothing is dumbed down -- there's no mention of dummies or idiots -- which is pleasantly different from many technology books."
Boomers will find "Online Health & Wellness" useful not just for their own health needs, but for their parents' needs as well. Seventy percent of people who care for a parent are between the ages of 40 and 59. In her book Berger explains new technologies that can help seniors remain independent and in their homes, such as the Motiva system which uses secure broadband technology to connect patients from their home television sets to their care providers, or the iBot wheelchair that climbs stairs.
Sandy Berger, who is herself a Boomer, grew up in Chicago and graduated cum laude from DePaul University.
"I'm a geek from way back. I was one of the few women in technology way back then," she says.
She wrote programs for computers "that were so big they took up an entire floor in a huge building. Computer time was so precious that we were often called in the middle of the night to run our programs. Keypunch machines were used to punch the programs onto cards that were fed into the computer. I'll never forget the time I dropped a two-foot long box of punch cards and had to re-sort them by hand!"
After a few years, she found programming tedious and the corporate world confining. She started working on her own as a consultant as she does today, as founder and president of Computer Living Corp., a computer consulting and training company.
"I specialize in lifestyle technology issues and helping those over 40 make the most of technology to enhance their lives," she says.
When her husband encouraged her to share her knowledge of computers and technology with others, her journalistic career was born.
"My entire life is focused on my writing, playing with high tech gadgets, and keeping up with technology," she says. "I'm having a ball. Someday I'll get back to reading a few non-technical books, cooking, and playing a little golf."
For the last seven years Berger, considered one of the top five most influential people in e-learning by The New York Times, has been the primary content provider and host of the Computers and Technology section of the AARP Web site. She is now offering an e-Health Newsletter on her Web site, www.compukiss.com, which can be customized to deliver specific health information. Her column appears weekly in The Pilot.
Her eighth book, and the fourth Great Age Guide, "Sandy Berger's Great Age Guide to Online Travel," will be published in the spring.
To reserve an autographed copy or for information, call 910-692-3211.
More like this story