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Computer programs show promise in improving memory

July 1, 2013

Technology has forever changed senior living. In addition to devices that can help older adults manage medication and track their movements around the house, programs as simple as computer games have been found to offer considerable health benefits. A recent study out of UCLA found seniors who played brain-stimulating games on the computer saw improvements in their memory as well as their language skills, according to results published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

An easy solution
The study relied on an analysis of nearly 70 participants with an average age of 82. Researchers asked them to play a game featuring hundreds of exercises that work on improving everything from visual-spatial processing and long-term memory to problem solving and reasoning. Over the course of the six-month trial, the team found that participants who completed at least 40 20-minute sessions performing the exercises saw an improvement to their memory skills. They also experienced a boost in language skills.

An estimated 40 percent of older adults experience some form of age-related memory decline, according to UCLA, and the results offer an easy-to-implement treatment option that may be able to stave off such changes to cognitive function. Additionally, these findings are not the first time that technology, and computer use in particular, has been cited as part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors

Facebook and senior health
Recent Pew Research Center findings revealed that more than half of adults 65 and older regularly use the Internet, which marked the first time that figure eclipsed the 50 percent mark. While it may seem inconsequential, the time seniors spend online could be good for their health. Specifically, researchers from the University of Luxembourg found that older adults who used social media websites such as Facebook experienced lower levels of isolation and loneliness. Not only that, but they may be able to use it to improve their health.

"There are many online forums where people in difficult life situations, such as informal caregivers of a spouse with dementia or individuals with depression, can exchange thoughts as well as receive and provide social support," said the study's author Dr. Anja Leist. "Other positive consequences are that lonely older adults can overcome loneliness through contact to family and friends and other users with similar interests."