The Internet for Seniors
For many older adults who grew up in a world where the internet was something that only the most forward thinking science fiction could have conceived of, it can be hard to learn to navigate it and use it the way that the younger generations who have never been without it seem to do effortlessly. A study from the UK in 2021, however, showed that older retired adults who use the internet score much higher on cognitive tests than those who do not. The protective effect was most dramatically effective amongst retired women, but the men who used the internet similarly scored higher on tests of memory, attention, spatial abilities, and problem solving.
For many retirees and adults in their twilight years, with old age and less responsibilities and obligations, there can also come a reduction in mental stimulation. Our brains work much the same way as our muscles, in that without regular use and effort being applied to them, they lose effectiveness and the abilities they grant us decline and degrade. The study, which included seniors of diverse education level and former professional careers, strongly suggests that internet use is a good replacement for the loss of workplace mental stimulation that comes with retirement.
And if the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that the internet can provide a lifeline in unexpected and uncertain times. While many people experienced social isolation in the pandemic, those who were able to utilize and leverage internet technologies like social media or video calls were better able to stay connected and avoid loneliness. Seniors who could use the internet were also more adept at preserving their health, through having telehealth appointments, accessing online senior programs, or any number of other resources that have migrated online.
The internet holds a multitude of options that older adults may find interesting or relevant, and they all offer plenty of mental stimulation to keep your brain sharp and supple.
- Access online news: While the morning newspaper has largely gone the way of the dodo, thousands of news outlets have a wealth of online content available to read and digest.
- Watch videos: Sites like YouTube have countless short fun videos to watch, and selecting and watching through them is an experience experts say is more interactive and less passive than simply watching TV.
- Learn new skills: With online classes, instructional videos, and how-to websites, jumping into a new hobby or honing your skills in an existing one is just a few clicks away.
- Computer games: Many studies have shown that computer games can provide a good mental workout, enhancing spatial sense and memory.
- Connect with others: Social media, online support groups, and other resources are available to connect with people with similar interests, concerns, or even the same neighborhood as you.