- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2000

The first wave of baby boomers, those between the ages of 45 and 59, will make up 40 percent of the U.S. population by 2004, according to the Bureau of the Census. These "third agers" have children ready to leave the house, are in their prime earning years and have the chance to live longer than ever.

A Web site catering to this demographic has been part of the World Wide Web since 1997 and offers a range of primers, articles and advice for enjoying a healthy life.

ThirdAge

Site address: www.thirdage.com

Creator:

ThirdAge Media, located in San Francisco, is an Internet media, membership and marketing company for first-wave baby boomers.

Creator quotable:

"We created ThirdAge to offer a virtual community for adults 45 years and older, a place where first-wave baby boomers can come each day to find tools, information, a supportive community environment and a variety of services which assist them when making important life-solution decisions," says Mary Furlong, founder and chairman of ThirdAge Media. "Clearly, ThirdAgers want to remain independent forever, and keeping vital and healthy is essential to that independence."

Word from the Webwise:

ThirdAge's opening page is very similar to the standard among on-line information-dissemination sites. This three-column format places link menus or boxes on the right and left of the page, ad banners at the top and bottom and content or special features in the middle.

Visitors will find almost 90 places to jump to in ThirdAge's cyber-world, covering areas such as "Beauty & Style," "Money," "Games & Jokes," "Good Marriage," "Shopping," "Politics," "Hairstyle" and "Choose Flattering Shoes."

Each area contains featured action plans such as a "Breast Cancer Action Kit," articles such as "Yoga for Mind and Body", revelations such as "10 Myths Men Believe About Menopause," with plenty of checklists and quizzes. All are broken into multipage modules and come with a variety of sources for further exploration.

For the purpose of this targeted review, I jumped into the voluminous "Health" section to access main stories and a host of subtopics ("Alternatives," "Answers," "Changing Body," "Fitness," "Men," "Nutrition," "Revitalization" and "Women")

Many of the health features are supplemented by Adam.com, which provides precise definitions to queries about anatomy, more than 40,000 illustrations and 10,000 pages of medical information.

Under "Men," the site delivered a piece on cholesterol control, with numerous doctors and nutrition experts piping in on cholesterol's effects on the male body, tips for lowering cholesterol, descriptions of saturated fats and an overview of a cholesterol test.

A particularly well-developed area to ThirdAge, "Learning Center," allows visitors to register for an on-line course using their e-mail address. Not only do the cyber-students get two lessons each week for multiple weeks, but they can find study buddies, get help from a tutor, enter live chat sessions, post questions in a general forum area and even get a printable diploma.

The current curriculum offers 22 courses on everything from creating Web sites to caring for an aging parent to finding love on line.

Ease of use:

Simple navigation throughout ThirdAge comes from a search engine, numerous drop-down menus and a page map.

Ad banners proliferate and court the boomers, which means lots of ads for Fixodent, Oil of Olay, Tylenol Arthritis and investments. Some of these ads are slightly masked as "special messages," and when visitors click through, they end up looking through a minisite commercial.

I was a bit annoyed by all features being broken up into multipage text segments. I spent more time waiting for the next part of an article to load than I needed to read the page's information.

It should be noted that sexually explicit content can be found on the site, especially under the "Love and Sex" section. However, ThirdAge offers an explanatory link stating that visitors must be 18 years and older to view the primarily text-driven content.

Don't miss:

Visitors can take a revealing virtual tour of midlife bodies through Interactive Leonardo, found under "Changing Bodies" within the "Health" section. Information of interest to people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s is provided separately, with specific information being accessed by clicking on parts of a large illustration representing the body. Pop-up menus then guide visitors to areas of interest.

The tool reveals a wide variety of information, including how respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal functions likely will slow during the 40s; tips for healthful eating for those in their 50s; and the age-related changes in the kidney, the bladder and glands occurring during one's 60s.

After completing Interactive Leonardo, visitors can receive a personal health checklist with prevention and management tips.

Overall grade: B+ (for pleasing to the baby boomer)

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com) .

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