Elder Tree

Welcome to Elder Tree!

You can become a member if you are 55 or over, live in Wisconsin, and have access to a computer with internet. Create your free Elder Tree account in a few easy steps!
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Note: User Names are limited to 50 characters.

Elder Tree Terms and Conditions

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies (CHESS) is a research center whose mission is to lead in research and development of innovative health systems, to improve the quality of life, and optimize individuals' health behaviors and increase access to services.

What is the Elder Tree System?

The Elder Tree system is a website which provides support to older adults and caregivers to help older adults remain independent. The system includes:

  1. A calendar with community events, and a way to create reminders, and appointments;
  2. Healthy reminders for falls prevention, nutrition and how to choose a service provider, etc;
  3. Advice on where you can go for help, such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center;
  4. A way to talk with other older adults without ever needing to share your name or meeting them. This is done by sending anonymous messages through the Elder Tree website.

How will data from the Elder Tree (CHESS) system be used?

The primary purpose of our research is to evaluate how different types of information and support helps older adults and their families as they age. To help us in our research, we will collect all of your CHESS use data and some or all of it could be used for ways to improve the technology. However, no personally indentifying information will be collected from you. While publications may result from this use data, you will never be personally identified. If you do not want us to keep track of how you use the system, you should NOT use the Elder Tree system. Your use of the Elder Tree system is completely voluntary and free of charge.

Are there any risks to me?

There are minimal risks involved in using the Elder Tree system. They include:

  • The Elder Tree system could give you wrong information. However, a panel of experts reviews all information before it is added to the Elder Tree system.
  • Someone may learn of your identity if you use your real name on the Elder Tree system.

Are there any benefits to me?

No benefit is guaranteed. However we believe you could benefit by having access to reliable information and increased social support. You may also benefit from knowing that what is learned in Elder Tree research could help other people.

How will my confidentiality by protected?

Your confidentiality is very important to us. You will be required to choose an anonymous codename and password to access the Elder Tree website. Every time you use Elder Tree you will use this anonymous codename and password. No one will know who you are unless you share your information in the Elder Tree discussion group.

Please note:

All Elder Tree content should be used for information purposes only, including Healthy Reminders, should not be considered medical advice nor should it be used as such. Messages in the Discussion Group in Elder Tree are the expressed views of individuals only. For specific medical opinions, please consult your physician.

Elder Tree Guidelines


  1. Be kind and respectful.
  2. Know and follow online etiquette.*
  3. When you disagree with someone, follow rule #1 even more.

Elder Tree Disclaimer

The mission of Elder Tree is to be a safe and welcoming website where seniors can support each other with helpful information, good conversation and words of encouragement. Safety, kindness and respect are essential for the success of Elder Tree. Therefore, the Elder Tree website is monitored by an Elder Tree Moderator (who is a staff person). Access to Elder Tree is a privilege, not a right. By joining Elder Tree you agree to abide by all rules and guidelines. All messages on the site may be viewed by Elder Tree staff administrators and moderators. They may remove any discussion post, comment or individual member who does not adhere to Elder Tree rules and guidelines. For the first offence, a private, written warning will be sent to the individual. A second offence may result in the person's account being removed from Elder Tree. All decisions are made by a team of Elder Tree Staff at CHESS/University of Wisconsin-Madison and their advisory group.

Online Etiquette

The following are accepted Internet standards of how to communicate in a civil and polite manner when you are online and posting messages on Elder Tree:

  • Do not use all caps or SHOUT in your posts.
  • Be civil. Personal differences are bound to occur, agree to disagree. Do not attack the person.
  • Keep topics confined to their correct discussion board. (Example: religious discussions should only take place on the Religion & Spirituality discussion board, not on the Just Chatting board.)

Don't Discuss Politics

We have purposefully chosen to make Elder Tree a politics free website. If you enjoy discussing politics with another member of Elder Tree, do so using private messages, but not on the public discussion groups. There are many other websites dedicated to political discussions. Type "political forums" in your Google search bar if you wish to find these websites.

Rules & Guidelines - Details

You are essential to the Elder Tree Community

Elder Tree is only as useful as the community makes it. Visit often and contribute by writing messages and commenting on others' messages. Let others know about activities going on in your community or share some of your favorite recipes.

Remember there is a person out there

"Talking" on Elder Tree will be a new experience for many users. Remember that there's a human reading your messages. When writing your messages ask yourself, "Would I say this to the person's face?" and "Would I want to receive the message I'm about to send?"

Respect each other

If you disagree with someone's point of view and wish to share your opinion, do so without being "disagreeable". That simply means: Be respectful. Be kind. Don't attack the person. Elder Tree is a community with many people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. We want to make sure everyone feels included. Be who you are and share your opinion, but be respectful of others on Elder Tree. Make your point without criticizing others for their opinions. For Elder Tree to thrive people have to feel that they can safely share their thoughts and opinions.

Keep It Clean and Civil

Do not use offensive, obscene or sexually explicit language, jokes, stories or photos. Do not use derogatory names or labels (directly or implied), when referring to individuals or groups. Never threaten or wish ill of any individual or group.

Stay on Topic

Some discussions may drift from the original subject of that particular message. Write a reply if what you are writing is related to the message topic, otherwise just start a new topic. We know that sometimes conversations wander off topic, it's the way it goes. Starting a new topic rather than changing topics in the middle makes it easier for everyone to follow.

Encourage new users on Elder Tree to get involved

Make sure to reach out and welcome new users. Send them a private message saying hello. It can be a lot easier to write your first message if you know it's only going to one person instead of the whole group. You can find new members by clicking the Members link at the bottom of each web page and look for the words "New Member" next to a person's username.

Make sure to reply

When you get new messages make sure to reply so the other user gets a message back. Even just a simple "Hello". It's not fun sending a message and not getting a response.

Don't worry about grammar

Elder Tree is not the place for formal grammar. Just "talk". Write as if you were talking to another person. Don't worry if your grammar isn't perfect. We all make errrors and that's ok.

Be Safe

Elder Tree is a secure online community. Only people who have been approved by the Elder Tree Staff Administrators are allowed to take part. But you should still follow some internet safety guidelines.

Avoid providing any personal or private information that you would not be willing to share with a total stranger. Information you should never provide include:

  • Your full name
  • Your telephone number
  • Your address
  • Your social security number

Contact Us

If you feel that someone is acting inappropriately make sure to contact us right away. Call our helpline at 1-800-480-9223. You can reach Scott Gatzke (Elder Tree Moderator) directly at 608-262-0624, if you get voice mail, leave a message and he will call you back. Email Scott at: scott.gatzke@wisc.edu