Tagging the oldies – PR faux pas?

My parents are visiting me from France for a week or so, and I’m wondering if they will need tagging whilst here. 

I love the naivety of science minister in suggesting tagging for the elderly in response to a question regarding potential uses for satellite technology.

Had he no idea how the media would report this, or the views of civil liberty groups?  How could he be “surprised by the severity of some of the criticisms”. (Although some voices have been supportive of the concept.)

Such immediate reactions are rarely good public relations.  Government needs to realise that the over-50s are in terms of issues regarding health.  Data from the US (albeit an online study) shows 82% of this age group is researching healthcare information via the Internet – so rather than a glib off-the-cuff comment, perhaps the minister should be engaging people in what help they would like should they be confronted with issues such as dementia.

I’m sure most would be more interested in ensuring a decent pension, a reliable NHS and other such matters than flippant ideas about tagging them in case they wander away from home.


  1. Judy Gombita says:

    After Sally Falkow posted about the study, “Boomers Hip to Web Technology” (www.infocomgroup.net/falkow/?p=58) in her blog (The Leading Edge: PR Technology Trends), a European colleague and I were comparing notes about how accurate were the American statistics compared to the seniors in our countries.

    He suggested that significant differences in Europe included:

    – broadband penetration is definitely lower
    – online shopping is less popular
    – seeking out information could be a trifle higher (around 95/96%)
    – getting health and wellness information from doctors [online], this would be forbidden by law in some European countries.

    Would you say those things are the same in the UK, particularly the last one?

    (And I agree that Malcolm Wick’s suggestion does not appear to have been well-thought out, on many levels!)

  2. There is definitely a digital divide, with active silver surfers, who are likely to be using the internet in largely the way that the study indicated. However, there are many older people who are not able to access online (although most libraries have good access if they do not have computers at home).

    Anecdotally, in my village I am surprised by the number and type of older people who are active online – for email and also “surfing” for information on their hobbies, healthcare and so on.

    Shopping in increasingly popular in the UK – and for the elderly, there are many recognised benefits, especially for supermarket shopping. I know many elderly people who use the online shopping for groceries from Tesco/Waitrose etc.

    With regard to health and wellness information – we have NHS Direct (http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/) which is an official source of information. Although we have laws relating to advertising of specific drugs – of course, the Internet being global, you can undoubtedly find anything online.

    Indeed, I have heard from some PR students in the healthcare sector that doctors have increasing concerns regarding patients who appear with their printouts of information gained online. Then again, if doctors were more forthcoming in providing information and links, then they could be proactive rather than reactive in this.

    Additionally to elderly people themselves being online, we should consider how their younger relatives will also turn to the Internet for advice on health and well-being issues.

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