Get the Silver Surfers on Facebook: Experts say using social media can help prevent decline in elderly's health

  • People aged 65-95 took part in the study by the University of Exeter
  • The group felt more confident and sociable after using the internet 
  • Using Skype and email to contact relatives among their favourite usages
  • Experts said the results could help stunt loneliness among the elderly  

Older people should use Facebook and other social media websites to prevent their health declining, a study has found. 

Pensioners who spend time online do not feel as lonely as others their age, which could stunt deterioration of physical and mental health, according to the research. 

The results of the study, carried out among 65 to 95-year-old's by researchers at the University of Exeter, could help cope with the health problems of an increasingly ageing population, experts said.

The study, carried out among pensioners aged 65 to 95, found using the internet improved the group's social skills and competence (file image)

Among ways to use the web to improve mental health was video calling and using social media via touch screen computers. 

A group of pensioners from 31 residential care homes across the UK were followed as part of the study funded by the EU. 

Those trained to use the technology felt more self-competent, were more sociable and showed improved cognitive abilities. 

Experts said using the internet could improve mental health among the elderly (file image)

The project's leader, Dr Thomas Morton, said the findings highlighted how loneliness among the elderly can contribute to poor health. 

'Human beings are social animals, and it’s no surprise that we tend to do better when we have the capacity to connect with others.

'But what can be surprising is just how important social connections are to cognitive and physical health. 

'People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.'

One participant said learning how to navigate her way through the internet had 'changed her life'. 

'Having this training changes people's lives and opens up their worlds, invigorates their minds and for lots of us gives us a completely different way of recognising our worth as we age,' said Margaret Keohone.  

'I was just slipping away into a slower way of life.' 

Emma Green, one of the carers from Somerset Care Ltd, one of the homes taking part in the survey, said: 'As the training programme developed with my participants their confidence grew and they were keen to tell me how family members had emailed back, Skyped or "liked" a comment or a picture on Facebook. 

'Seeing the smiles on my participant's faces when they Skuped a family member in the UK or abroad was such a special moment.'   

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