The internet: a global network connecting millions, providing information and entertainment to the masses. Except, it seems, to the elderly. An estimated 70% of 75 year olds and over have NEVER used the internet compared to the 73% of us who use the internet daily.
A recent study published in the March edition of ‘Journals of Gerontology: series B: psychological sciences and social sciences’ reported that retired adults who use the internet were less depressed then those who did not.
Researchers at Michigan State University conducted a 6 year study (2002-2008) involving 3,075 men and women who were retired and living in their own homes. The retirees were asked to completed questionnaires that inquired about their use of the internet and feelings associated with depression.
After analysing all the gathered data, researchers identified that those who went online had a 30% lower chance of experiencing depression. “The largest impacts on depression were actually for those people who lived alone, so it’s really suggesting that it’s about connecting with others, eliminating isolation and loneliness” commented Shelia Cotten, lead author of the study, Ph.D, professor of the department of telecommunication, information studies and media at Michigan State University.
Less than 30% of the participants reported using the internet and according to previous studies they probably used it for communication purposes, though it’s not clear whether email, chat rooms or bulletin boards made the greatest difference to depression scores.
When this study was conducted social giants Facebook and Twitter were nonexistent or in their infancy, but now social media is integrated into our everyday lives, and there is no reason for older generations not to get involved and connect. Cotten believes it is important to “help older loved ones get online and to not assume that it’s beyond them, because it’s not”.
Help an elder feel reconnected by introducing them to the unlimited uses of the internet. Warning: extreme patience may be required (if my mother is anything to go by).