A study conducted in April, 2012 shows that within recent years American adults ages 65 and older have become more computer savvy through internet usage and email. With the past years showing little usage growth in this age group, this current 53% usage rate is significant. With the increase of internet usage, many positive health benefits have been noted in older adults in response to their internet surfing.
According to a study in 2009 conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Phoenix Center, spending time online has helped reduce stress by 20% in older adults. Other research done in 2009 by the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) also found that surfing the internet for only a week showed improvements in cognitive function due to specific areas of the brain being stimulated that control decision-making and reasoning skills.
With depression effecting millions of older Americans and the medical costs reaching over $100 million annually, the findings of this research is extremely significant. With internet based social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and access to emails, the efforts to keep in touch and up to date with family, friends and the community have made social engagements and opportunities easier to stay engaged in.
Along with easier access for social networking to assist with depression cognitive improvements have been noted to take place as quickly as a week long period, with only 1 hour of internet surfing a day. Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA said that “performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function.” Brain regions that showed improvement in function were the middle and inferior frontal gyrus, which are the areas known to work on memory and decision-making.
So if you know of an older adult who is hesitant about embracing the world or technology, try to encourage them to start getting involved by educating them on the health benefits. Also try encouraging them through some of today’s numerous technological resources.