Literacy Adds Additional Challenges

I have some other seniors statistics that I will add later, but this morning I was researching seniors and healthcare communications.  I was surprised to see some of the data around how literacy presents a big challenge for them.  Here are a few facts and some links for more information:

  • “People aged 70 years and older with limited literacy skills are one and one half [1.5x] to two [2x] times as likely to have poor health and poor health care access as people with adequate or higher reading ability, according to a study led by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.” (source)
  • “One in four [seniors] had limited literacy. In practical terms, these elders ‘may have trouble reading basic health information or pill bottle instructions'” (source)
  • “Although only 12 percent of the U.S. population was age 65 and older in 2003, they accounted for one-third of all patients admitted to the nation’s community hospitals in that year – over 13 million hospital stays, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research…The elderly also accounted for 44 percent of all hospital charges  nearly $329 billion.” (source)

  • “Senior citizens (65+) scored far lower than younger people in a 2003 literacy test. The test had a maximum score of 500.” (source)


  • “Less than one out of six U.S. adults have “proficient” health literacy, according to the report released this week, but for seniors it is only about three out of a hundred.  A staggering 29% of senior citizens do not even have “basic” health literacy.” (source)

I think this is an interesting angle that you don’t hear much about.  We spend all this time trying to think about what to say and other creative aspects, but sometimes we have to simplify the story to get to the point of being usable.  Here are a few other links if interested in the topic:

One Response to “Literacy Adds Additional Challenges”

  1. You should go to the source, not someone else’s reporting. Look for the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Also look for a book, “Advancing health literacy: A framework for understanding and action”

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