Using social media can help delay the effects of aging and improve the physical and mental well being of elderly people, according to a new study from the University of Exeter in the UK.
The two-year study followed 76 participants from 31 residential and nursing homes around Britain, ages 65-95, who were judged to be at risk of serious mental and physical decline associated with aging. Half of the seniors were randomly assigned to a group which received training in social media using touchscreen computers, including “liking” photos posted by friends and family, sending and receiving emails, and communicating with relatives overseas using video chat; the control group did not.
After receiving social media training, the study group showed an improvement in cognition as well as increased confidence in their own ability to handle day-to-day tasks -- not to mention a more positive attitude about computers. The seniors in the study group also displayed a stronger sense of personal identity and reported feeling less lonely -- lessening the risk of depression, a major factor in mental and physical decline associated with aging.
University of Exeter professor Dr. Thomas Morton stated: “Human beings are social animals, and it’s no surprise that we tend to do better when we have the capacity to connect with others. But what can be surprising is just how important social connections are to cognitive and physical health.”
Morton went on: “People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline. For these reasons finding ways to support people’s social connections is a really important goal. This study shows how technology can be a useful tool for enabling social connections, and that supporting older people in our community to use technology effectively can have important benefits for their health and well-being.”
A number of previous studies have shown that online casual games can also help fight the effects of aging in capacities including reaction time, attention span, and visual recognition, among other areas.