Social Media Skills May Improve Cognitive Function Among Seniors

There is mounting evidence that social media and too much screen time is gradually replacing face to face interaction leading to isolation, depression and loneliness.  But new research out of the University of Illinois has found that for older adults, learning to use social media can help improve cognitive function and have a positive effect on overall well-being.   

Learning any new skill is valuable to help the aging brain stay sharp and becoming familiar with and able to navigate social media is no exception.  Seniors who may not be able to travel are still able to stay connected with friends and family, share memories and remain engaged with their communities through social technologies.  A 2018 study, published in Sage Journals, examines the cognitive effect of social media training workshops on adults over the age of 65.   Participants were determined to be cognitively intact at the beginning of the study and had used Facebook for less than 10 hours in the previous 6 months. 

The 4-week social media workshops where held for 2 hours each week and each group were instructed on how to set up and use Facebook and Twitter accounts, share photos, post status updates and manage their online privacy and security.  Participants were assessed at the beginning and end of the 4 weeks and then again 4 months later. Researchers concluded from the data collected that there are positive cognitive effects as a result of engaging with social media for older adults, especially in the area of inhibitory function; the ability to filter out irrelevant information.

It should be noted that some studies have found that spending too much time on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram can lead to depression, especially when posts make others people’s lives appear more interesting and exciting than your own.  Social media can also be addictive, some users may find they are spending less time nurturing meaningful relationships with real friends as a result of this technology and need to scale back on their daily use.

Want to learn how to use social media?  Try asking a teenaged grandchild for a couple of tutorials or inquire at your local library or community center about classes or workshops.  You can also learn how to use social media with the help of a number of YouTube video tutorials.