Study Says Facebook Gives Cognitive Boost to Older Adults

UK, Britain. Woman using a computer for social networking looking at a Facebook page on the website.One in three online seniors use a social networking site like Facebook, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. While many have concerns about privacy or learning the technical aspects of social media, the numbers speak to the increasing older demographic involved in such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.

Many older adults enjoy keeping up with far-flung friends and family, sharing thoughts as quick sound bites and photos of grandchildren, club activities, trips, pets, etc. As well there are physical and emotional benefits to being involved in social media. Personally, I feel a tremendous surge of well-being when “playing” on my Pinterest virtual pinboards and as I post my daily thoughts and concerns on Twitter and Tumblr. And, my daily dose of Facebook is so positive — love the Words With Friends brain training and the quick communication with my friends and family. As well, weekly travels through Linkedin keep my creative and work juices flowing and quick peeks at Polyvore and Fancy are fun ways to see other peoples’ fashion, travel and gadget suggestions.

Spending time on Facebook has been shown to reduce stress levels, slow down heart rates and — generally speaking — just simply relax people. Now new research suggests that learning to use Facebook may have an additional benefit for adults over 65: a sharpening of mental abilities.”

Janelle Wohltmann, a graduate student in the University of Arizona department of psychology, did a study on the effects of Facebook use for older adults. She cautions that its use may not be positive for all older people“One of the take-home messages could be that learning how to use Facebook is a way to build what we call cognitive reserve, to help protect against and stave off cognitive decline due to normal age-related changes in brain function. But there certainly are other ways to do this as well,” she said.

“It’s also important to understand and know about some of the aspects of Facebook that people have concerns about, like how to keep your profile secure,” she added. “So I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to get out and get Granny online right away, unless you or somebody else can provide the proper education and support to that person, so that they can use it in a safe way.”


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