Research findings suggest that men and women older than 65 who learn to use Facebook could see a boost in cognitive function. Currently, one in three online seniors use a social networking site like Facebook, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
In a preliminary study of older adults aged 68 to 91, researchers out of the University of Arizona noticed a 25 percent improvement in tasks related to working memory among new Facebook users.
Participants were divided into three groups. In the first, 14 seniors were trained to use the social media platform and were asked to post at least once day. Participants were instructed to befriend people within the group. A second group of 14 adults was instructed to use an online diary site, in which entries were kept private with no ability to share. Participants were instructed to post entries of no more than three to five sentences -- to mimic the length of status updates on Facebook -- a minimum of once daily. And the third group, which acted as a control group,were told they were on a non-existent "waiting list."
Prior to learning any new technologies, study participants, who ranged in age from 68 to 91, completed a series of questionnaires and neuropsychological tests measuring social variables, such as their levels of loneliness and social support, as well as their cognitive abilities. The assessments were done again at the end of the study, eight weeks later.
By the end of the experiment, those who learned how to use Facebook showed a 25 percent improvement in mental "updating" skills -- the ability to quickly add or delete contents of their working memory -- researchers noted. Participants in the other groups saw no significant change in performance.
"There's also a large body of literature showing that people who are more socially engaged are less lonely, have more social support and are more socially integrated are also doing better cognitively in older age," points out lead author Janelle Wohltmann.
Wohltmann says she also sees Facebook as a potential alternative to some online games marketed to seniors to help boost mental acuity. “This might be a new activity for people to learn that’s more interesting and keeps them socially engaged,” she said, adding that it can also help older adults stay connected with grandchildren and other family and friends.
Meanwhile, another study published last year in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that visiting social networking sites like Facebook provided positive emotional experiences, as measured by breathing rates, brain activation and pupil dilation.
We here at the Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. are pleased to see the social and cognitive advantages of social networking sites, such as Facebook. Now that you are posting pictures of your cruise, playing Candy Crush Saga with your grandchildren, and making plans to reconnect with old friends on Facebook, it is time to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Evan H. Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney with a focus on helping protect seniors and their families by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. Call the Fairfax Elder Care Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, CELA at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a complimentary consultation.
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