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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Seniors who use social media feel more youthful, study finds

blog-socialjpgAre you on Facebook? Do you Skype? If you’re a savvy Silver Surfer, then you know how easy it is to keep in touch with friends and family through social media. Bet you didn’t know, though, that learning to use social media could benefit your overall mental health and well-being.

A two-year study by researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that older people who received training in use of social media were happier and—get this—felt younger than those in a control group.

Some of the subjects who got the training were skeptical initially about computers but became more positive over the duration of the study.

The 76 folks who volunteered to participate in the Exeter study ranged in age from 60 to 95. Some lived in retirement communities and others were living in their own homes but receiving support from Somerset Care Ltd., one of Great Britain’s largest nonprofit senior care organizations. Half the volunteers received the computer training, while the other half received their regular care.

The trainees were given a computer, broadband internet connection and a training package, along with three months of classes with teachers who were available to answer their questions.

“Having this training changes people’s lives and opens up their worlds, invigorates their minds and for lots of us gives a completely different way of recognizing our worth as we age,” said Margaret Keohone, one of the participants.

The trainees particularly enjoyed connecting with friends and relatives through Skype and email. Skype is a computer program that lets you call people who also are connected to Skype. It’s like a regular phone call, except that you can see the person you’re talking to and they can see you.

Many of the participants were surprised at how easy it was for them to master the basics that allowed them to use Skype, Facebook and email.

The study was part of the Ages 2.0 project, which was designed and funded by the European Union to determine how these new technologies can help foster communication and social inclusion of older folks and to evaluate the effects of technology on their health and well-being.

The study “found that those trained had heightened feelings of self-competence, engaged more in social activity, had a stronger sense of personal identity and showed improved cognitive capacity. These factors indirectly led to overall better mental health and well-being,” according to a news release from the university.

Even if you have a great personal support network, you can still benefit from using social media. Facebook users, for example, greatly enjoy finding and re-establishing contact with high school and college classmates they haven’t heard from in years. Others love keeping up with distant kids and grandkids through Facebook, Skype and email.

Your community has ample opportunities to learn to use computers and tablets if you don’t already, and to improve your skills if you do. Why not check them out today?

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