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Study: Technology can keep older adults connected

New technology is no longer just a young person’s game.  Older adults who adopt new technologies are finding new ways to connect, thereby improving their health and wellbeing in the process. A small-scale study by a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University found that older adults who were taught how to use a tablet to post photos, use the Internet, create documents and send emails were more likely to feel optimistic and engaged and to have improved problem-solving skills in daily life.

In the study, 25 seniors at an assisted living facility, who had an average age of 80, were given 90 minutes of training on a tablet for 15 weeks in a row, as well as any refresher courses that were necessary. None of them had ever used this technology. The participants typically used their tablets to shop, search for information about their health and email friends and family. After three months, researcher and psychologist T.J. McCallum found that participants felt happier and more connected to family and friends – both of which are important in aging healthfully, while the 20 individuals in the control group, with an average age of 83, did not experience these benefits.

“Simply put, technologies that can combat isolation and increase socialization are rendered useless if older adults don’t use them,” McCallum said. “Older adults can learn to use new technologies. They generally need to be introduced to different uses of a computer more slowly than younger folks, but only because of the sensory, cognitive and physical deficits associated with aging.”

Technology is especially important for older adults with hearing loss because they are more likely to feel isolated due to their difficulty hearing. Simple technologies, like a CapTel captioned telephone, can help older adults maintain connections with distant family and friends without the need for training (it works just like any phone). Other technology, such as tablets, laptops and assistive listening devices are important advances, but often times, older adults just need to take a course or receive some guidance in using these devices. As this study shows, the payoff for taking the time to learn how to use new technology can be benificial for seniors’ health and wellbeing.