Technology Equals Happy For The Elderly
January 17, 2014

Technology Equals Happy For The Elderly

It took my friends a long time to get me to try Facebook. I had never been all that interested in any sort of social networking and honestly, I am still not. However, after literally years of being asked to get onto Facebook, I finally gave in. What was the big push? The thing that convinced me? Honestly, it was gaming and being able to coordinate with my fellow gamers regarding the game, and that was it. I created an account, joined the groups my friends had set up, and that was it. Now it feels odd just thinking about not having Facebook. Any more it is just a habit to log on to Facebook whenever I do anything online. Even now, as I write this, Facebook is open in a separate window. Thanks to that, I have easy access to all of my friends via a very convenient medium. No matter how far away we are from each other, or even what we are doing, we can always stay connected, and that is a wonderful thing.

A recent study conducted back in 2012 by Professor Louis Medvene, professor of psychology and director of the Social Relationships Research Workgroup, and a team of graduate student from Wichita State University looked into how the use of social networking technologies could improve the lives of our senior citizens. In the course of the various interviews, the team found out that despite 85 percent of their participants being interested in using a computer and potentially engaging in this form of media, only 25 percent were regularly doing so. Forty-two percent of their participants were socially isolated or at a high risk of social isolation, which is a well-known risk factor to someone’s physical and mental well-being. The team also discovered that among their participants who were using a computer, most of them admitted being less lonely or feeling socially isolated. In short, it was making them happier. As part of the study, Medvene and his team demonstrated the use of customized computer software designed specifically with the elderly in mind, a system that is easy to use, intuitive, and overall very simple to learn. What Professor Medvene hopes to use this research for is to promote the use of new technology among our older generations, showing them how social interactions through mediums like Facebook and others could improve their overall well being by helping prevent the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are felt by so many.

According to Professor Medvene, “I think it (computers/technology) has the potential to reduce isolation and loneliness. You have poorer outcomes in terms of physical health and also mental health if your socially isolated. Social media, the computer and the Internet allow people to interact more and acquire information that they need, which they might not have access to if they do not grasp the knowledge.”

I have a grandmother I worry about regularly, and I know that she must often feel lonely living by herself. I wish I had the means of visiting her more often, but alas I do not. I know that she feels intimidated by modern technology, and computers in particularly, but I wish that she would take the time to try and learn how to use social media like Facebook. I honestly think that would help fight against the loneliness I know she suffers from, as well as help her keep in touch with her family and friends. Sure, it is not an absolute solution, but every little thing that does improve the quality of living not only for my own family, but for everyone is a worthwhile endeavor.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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