Apparently, tweets, Instagram filters and Facebook updates aren’t just for millennials. According to recent research, social media and other technology can have a positive impact on seniors’ well-being.
This shouldn’t be entirely surprising. According to market research, nearly 83 percent of baby boomers (which includes seniors) belong to at least one social media site. But why are they using this technology in the first place? There are several reasons, and many of them benefit seniors mental, emotional and social health.
How Technology Benefits Seniors
A 2016 Stanford University study found people 80 and over are using technology to connect with friends or relatives who live far away. The study, which involved 445 people age 80 to 93, asked participants why they used information and communication technologies. The majority of participants said they used at least one technological device on a regular basis. These participants also reported better physical and mental health, researchers said.
Other studies have discovered similar trends. Michigan State University research that reviewed data from nearly 600 participants involved in a national Health & Retirement Study found that use of social technology (email, social networks, instant messaging, video or phone calls, like Skype) were connected to better health, fewer symptoms associated with depression and fewer chronic conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes). Researchers also found participants who were technologically engaged were less lonely.
In addition to proper diet and exercise, social connections are an important to overall health and well-being. As people get older, especially those over 80, they may not be as mobile or as physically active due to multiple chronic conditions. Social technology gives them a way to stay engaged from the comfort of their home, particularly with relatives who live far away and may not be able to visit as often.
In addition to maintaining social relationships, social technology also may benefit seniors’ brain health. One European study, for example, found that seniors who underwent computer training to use social media, Skype and email performed better on tests that assessed their cognitive abilities and personal identity. Some study participants even reported improved mental and physical health as a result of the training.
Rates of internet use have grown among seniors in recent years, and the Michigan State study also indicated many older adults are open to engaging with these platforms — 72 percent of the study’s participants said they were not opposed to learning new technologies.
These studies show that regardless of age, we all want to feel connected to a wider community. For young people, it may be easy to get out and socialize. But for seniors it can be harder to do so. Social technology and other platforms bridge this gap, helping older adults feel less isolated and allowing them to maintain important social connections with friends and family. Research has consistently proven that these technologies lead to significant health benefits, so it’s not too late to start tweeting, using Skype or posting Facebook updates — many of your age mates already are doing the same.