BY UNIVERSITY OF EXETER ON DECEMBER 13, 2014 MENTAL HEALTH
Training older people in the use of social media improves cognitive capacity, increases a sense of self-competence and could have a beneficial overall impact on mental health and well-being, according to a landmark study carried out in the UK.
A two-year project funded by the European Union and led by the University of Exeter in partnership with Somerset Care Ltd and Torbay & Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust gave a group of vulnerable older adults a specially-designed computer, broadband connection and training in how to use them.
Those who received training became more positive about computers over time, with the participants particularly enjoying connecting with friends and relatives via Skype and email.
The ageing population is one of the major challenges facing our society. It is expected that between 2010 and 2060, the number of people aged 65 and over across Europe will grow from 17.4% to 29.5% of the total population. The project, called Ages 2.0, aimed to assess the extent to which the internet and social media offer a tool for promoting active ageing and addressing the social isolation that is too often a feature of older age.
It found that those trained had heightened feelings of self-competence, engaged more in social activity, had a stronger sense of personal identity and showed improved cognitive capacity. These factors indirectly led to overall better mental health and well-being.