The Health Benefits of Seniors Using Social Media

Alleviates Depression, Improves Cognition

social media in long term care
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We typically think of social media as something for young people. Yet six out of ten older adults are online, many using social media. And that could actually have health benefits. In fact a two-year study in the UK and Italy proved the health benefits of seniors using social media.

Researchers found that it improves cognition, increases self worth and could have a beneficial overall impact on mental health and physical well-being.

During the two-year project, 120 elderly and vulnerable people were given specially-designed computers, broadband connections and training in using e-mail, Skype, Facebook and other social media.


Let’s look at the obvious. Many elders are isolated. Even many living in communities spend more time in their room then they do with others. That leads to depression, which leads to poor behaviors, which leads to bad health consequences.

Researchers found that when you give older people the tools to go online, they report feeling less isolated. They perform better in cognitive tests. And many reported being mentally and physically healthier than before.

How do you get a person interested?

The short answer is to show them who they could connect with by using the tools.

If you give a loved one computer or tablet, explain that it is easier for you to communicate with them this way. Knowing it will alleviate stress on the entire family, your loved ones will likely be much more receptive to using it.

Obviously tablet computers have helped. They are easier to navigate and use. So when we bought mom one, of course her first reaction was what am I going to do with that. But then we set up a Facebook Page and connected with the kids and grandchildren. All of a sudden that gave her something to look forward to and she made a point to go online everyday.

In fact she knew more about my personal schedule than I was probably comfortable wanting her to know. Not to mention her WIFI hot spot costs me money every month!

Caregivers have to provide the nudge and show the benefits to seniors. Then when they see what FaceTime and Skype can do, they really embrace the technology.

Keep the momentum going?

It’s important to introduce one thing at a time to seniors. So for mom, it was simply a Facebook page where she could be an observer and see the photos and updates from the grand childen.

Next, you show them how they can participate – like a post, respond to a post. Then you move on from there.

For example, once you’ve introduced email continue to engage your loved one by sending messages without the expectation of any response. Provide consistent and interesting content. It may take over a month but once it becomes part of their daily routine, they will engage.

If you think your parent would benefit from seeing frequent pictures of their grandchildren but can’t reliably operate a computer, consider the Presto printer, which will print output from your computer in their house provided they have a phone line.

LinkedSenior is another technology that allows community participation in social media in a very structured environment


Check your local area colleges and senior centers for classes. More and more senior living communities offering this as well to residents and community. Some online resources include:

    This is the perfect place for seniors to learn skills. Email your grandchildren, get medical information on the Internet and more.
    SeniorNet's mission is to provide older adults education for and access to computer technologies to enhance their lives and enable them to share their knowledge and wisdom.
  3. providing free basic computer training for beginners with online video computer lessons.

The study we cited at the beginning found that around three quarters of those given the computers and training found e-mail and Skype useful. Less than a half found Facebook worthwhile. That is all well and good but the reason my mother and mother-in-law continue to have an interest and participate on social media is because of Facebook. I imagine over time new studies will show the benefit of that platform and whatever other platforms emerge that we have not dreamed of yet!

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