Could spending time on Facebook be beneficial to older adults? According to a new study from the University of Arizona it could help boost cognitive function.

The study was carried out by graduate student Janelle Wohltmann with help from her research adviser, Betty Glisky; a team of research students were also involved in the study. The study aimed to find out if joining the social networking giant would improve the cognitive function of older adults and also help them to feel “more socially connected”.

Wohltmann shared her preliminary findings at the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii. The study showed that after using Facebook, older adults performed approximately 25% better on tasks that had been “designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their working memory”

The research involved small groups of older adults. In one group, 14 of the adults were given Facebook training and were told to become ‘friends’ with the others in the training group and post to the site once a day.

In another group there were another 14 older adults. Instead of using Facebook, the group was instructed to sign up to and keep a regular online diary.

Before the study, the participants, who were all aged from 68-91, undertook a number of tests including questionnaires and neuropsychological tests; the tests took into account factors such as loneliness and the social support the participants had. After the study period, which lasted eight weeks, the group was tested again and it was found those who took part in the Facebook group performed “25 percent better than they did at the start of the study on tasks designed to measure their mental updating abilities”

Commenting in a press release, Wohltmann said:

“Facebook is obviously a huge phenomenon in our culture.”

“There’s starting to be more research coming out about how younger adults use Facebook and online social networking, but we really don’t know very much at all about older adults, and they actually are quite a large growing demographic on Facebook, so I think it’s really important to do the research to find out.”

“One of the take-home messages could be that learning how to use Facebook is a way to build what we call cognitive reserve, to help protect against and stave off cognitive decline due to normal age-related changes in brain function. But there certainly are other ways to do this as well.”


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