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Joining Facebook may reap rewards for seniors

March 11, 2014

Technology continues to change the way people interact with one another, whether teenagers are sending funny pictures via Snapchat or crafty individuals are gathering art project ideas on Pinterest. Social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, can allow people from all walks of life to share ideas, thoughts and memories. These websites offer a range of benefits for seniors in particular, especially when it comes to bolstering social involvement and improving memory care.

The most dominant social network is Facebook, which boasts over 1 billion active monthly users, according to Statistics Brain. While that number largely consists of younger users - including college and high school students - the Pew Research Internet Project reported that a growing number of seniors have profiles. According to the report, 45 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 65 are active on the site. As it turns out, Facebook may help contribute to a healthy lifestyle for seniors, especially for those currently living in retirement communities.

Facebook allows seniors to connect with friends and family
Through Facebook, older adults can connect with family members and friends who may live far away or who they haven't spoken to in a long time. The platform allows users to easily communicate with their social group, whether they're sharing pictures or text updates. Jerry Berntsen, an 81-year-old self-described "inspector gadget," told ABC News that he appreciates Facebook because it allows him to easily talk to his loved ones.

"I use Facebook to stay close to my family," Berntsen said to the source. "Sometimes they might not invite you to something because it's all done on Facebook."

Social media site could provide better mental health
Not only does Facebook allow users to connect with their social circles on one simple platform, but one study conducted by The University of Arizona found that the site may improve cognition in its older users. Psychology graduate student Janelle Wohltmann studied a group of older adults who frequently use Facebook, and found that those who visited the site on a daily basis were able to perform memory tasks 25 percent better than those who did not have profiles.

According to UA News, Wohltmann presented her research to the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii. She told the source that part of the reason that seniors experience a cognitive boost is due to the subtle intricacies of the site.

"The Facebook interface is actually quite complex," Wohltmann said. "The big difference between the online diary and Facebook is that when you create a diary entry, you create the entry, you save it and that's all you see, versus if you're on Facebook, several people are posting new things, so new information is constantly getting posted."