21 February 2013
Get Gran on Facebook!
New research has suggested that using Facebook could help to keep the brain sharp into old age. Scientists from the University of Arizona found that those who used the social networking site performed better in cognitive tests than those who simply used the web.
One group in the study consisted of 14 adults aged between 68 and 91 who had either never used the site before or used it less than once a month. Each was set up on Facebook and
told to add ‘friends’ from the training group as well as post on the site at least once a day. A second group were taught to use an online diary website where entries are kept private and there is no social aspect.
Before the study began, participants took part in a series of tests to assess their levels of loneliness and social support, as well as their cognitive abilities. These were then repeated after the 8 week trial.
The results showed that those who learned to use Facebook performed 25% better than they did at the beginning of the study. Participants in the other group saw no change in their performance.
Lead researcher Janelle 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. If you’re on Facebook, several people are posting new things, so new information is constantly getting posted. You’re seeing this new information coming in, and you need to focus on the new information and get rid of the old information, or keep it in mind if you want to go back and reference it later, so you have to constantly update what’s there in your attention.”
It is thought that Facebook could be used an alternative to the brain training games aimed at older people.
Janelle commented, “Those games can be boring after a while, and this might be a new activity for people to learn that’s more interesting and keeps them socially engaged.”
However, safety needs to be considered, “It’s also important to understand and know about some of the aspects of Facebook that people have concerns about, like how to keep your profile secure. So I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to get out and get Granny online right away, unless you or somebody else can provide the proper education and support to that person, so that they can use it in a safe way.”