Internet Use Increases Brain Activity in Seniors

By on August 27, 2012

Use It or Lose It

Using the internet has been shown to increase cognitive brain function. Test subjects with minimal computer experience showed enhanced function and altered brain activity patterns after doing internet searches. Research has long shown that the parts of the brain responsible for memory and decision making, require continual mental stimulation. It has always been suggested that brain exercises like crossword puzzles helps keep seniors’ minds sharp. Newer studies have shown that learning new things is even more helpful.

Studies have also proven that senior citizens who spend time online are 20% less likely to be depressed. This is good news for the nation’s health care programs which are sure to be stressed by the aging baby boomers. In annual medical and workplace costs, depression accounts for about $100 million. People have always said that a companion dog is just what the doctor ordered to combat depression in the elderly. Now they can have an iPad with a dog app and not have to worry about cleaning up messes!

Old Dogs and New Tricks

The newer technology is so much easier to use. Seniors who understand that it will improve their lives won’t have as much trouble learning to use an iPad as they would have had navigating a complex notebook computer. About 42% of Americans over 65 are using the internet. This seems like a huge number, but it is significantly lower than other age groups – 70% of those 50 to 64 years old are online!

My Mom who is 62 got an iPad 2 years ago and absolutely loves it. She is always finding an interesting new app. She does crosswords and Sudoku puzzles on it. She shops and looks at real estate. Her pc, which was an endless source of frustration, gets very little use anymore. My Dad, who has always been great with a computer, and initially thought the iPad was “just a toy” is already considering buying his own, because Mom doesn’t share hers enough. My parents aren’t into smartphones or texting, and I can understand that. They both need glasses to see up close, and the little keypads on smartphones are hard enough for me with 20/20 vision. It is impressive to see older people adapting so easily to new technology. Even cooler is the fact that my Mom got her iPad right after my baby was born. Mom installed great apps that entertained the baby even before she was able to sit up on her own. They have a special bond over that iPad!

Back to School

For Seniors wanting to learn, most communities have Seniors Centers where cheap and often free classes are given on computers. Those who don’t have access at home can also get online for free at the public library. A nonprofit group called SeniorNet offers classes taught by volunteers in hundreds of locations across the country. Before long, I’m sure we will find ways of getting the technology into the hands of older Americans.

Chelsea Smith is working on her final essay for college covering the topic of internet impact on the way we think.

Photo Credit: prupert

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