How Social Media Keeps Seniors Healthy

Julia Little  |  June 20, 2014

Seniors are flocking to social media sites at a rising pace, as networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram continue to post higher adoption rates among adults over the age of 65. While some older adults frequent these websites for purely social or entertainment reasons, a new study from the American Psychological Association found that participation in these sites can bolster cognitive health for seniors.

According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 59 percent of adults over the age of 65 are online. Specifically, 46 percent of seniors in this group are active on social media, creating and maintaining profiles on popular networks. Both numbers have continually risen over the years, with the source noting that only 33 percent of seniors used social media in 2011. 

As a greater number of older adults join these sites, researchers have discovered the benefits that arise following adoption.

Seniors receive social, mental and physical boost
The APA recently published a string of studies that illustrated how social media affected senior health, discovering that older adults who had positive social interactions on these sites reported elevated moods, while those who had negative experiences were more likely to have physical side effects. The organization added that seniors who participated in these sites and maintained strong connections with friends and loved ones reported fewer instances of negative health habits, such as smoking, depression or disease. 

One study, "Social Relationships, Leisure Activity and Health in Older Adults," found that seniors who spent time on social media sites were more likely to participate in leisure activities that lead to greater health, such as cooking or cleaning in the home. Researchers noted that over the course of four years, older adults on these sites had lower blood pressure and fewer instances of diabetes when compared to those who were not.

Benefits for older adults on social media
Remaining an active presence on a social networking site provides many benefits for seniors. Not only can does it allow older adults to remain in-the-know regarding the latest technological trends, but it also connects them to friends and loved ones who they may not be able to interact with on a daily basis. Laura Carstensen, the head of the Stanford Center on Longevity, spoke to NPR about the reasons more adults over 50 are active on social media. She told the source that older adults frequently adopt these sites because they enjoy interacting with technology and use them as a way to further educate themselves about rising trends.

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