Social Media Provides Physical and Cognitive Benefits for Seniors

Elderly couple laughing at a tablet

Gone is the day that seniors are intimidated and overwhelmed by modern technology. In fact, sites that monitor social media report that approximately half of all seniors in the United States use the Internet regularly, and many are active on Facebook.

It’s never too late to learn something new, and it shouldn’t be surprising that seniors 74 and older are the fastest-growing demographic among social media users. Many seniors are initially motivated to use Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media to maintain communication with their high-tech kids and grandkids. However, once they become aware of the benefits, they use social media much like everybody else—to post pictures, share information, play games, and to keep in touch with family and friends, whether they live across the street or around the world.

Social Media Promotes a Healthy Social Life and a Sense of Well-Being

Opportunities for socialization often decrease as people age, especially for elderly people who live alone or those who are no longer able to get out and about. However, social interaction is vital for seniors, and connection with others may help them remain in their own home longer.

Benefits of a healthy social life are well-documented. Research indicates that elderly people who maintain social relationships may enjoy longer, more active lives due to an improved immune system and increased motivation to remain independent and healthy. Additionally, a healthy social life may reduce risk of cardiovascular problems, arthritis and some cancers.

A healthy social life also helps seniors maintain a positive outlook, reducing the risk of depression and other mental illness.

Social Media Provides Opportunities for Brain-Boosting

Although the jury is still out, early research indicates that learning to use Facebook and other social media enhances cognitive abilities and may stave off mental decline that occurs with age, reducing the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers aren’t sure if this beneficial brain boost is due to the social connections or to the the mental activity involved in learning new, different skills. Most likely, improved cognitive abilities are due to a combination of both factors.

If your elderly loved one has an interest in jumping into social media, classes are often available at senior centers, churches or community colleges. To prevent potential problems down the road, be sure your family member understands the basics of privacy and Internet security.