Silver surfing lessons can help fight dementia

old elderly man using PC

Encouraging the elderly to use the internet can not only help them keep in touch with friends and family and take advantage of the best deals, it can also reduce the likelihood of dementia.

The results of an eight-year study of 6,500 50-90 year-olds reveal that those who regularly go online experience less mental decline compared to those who don't use the internet. The study shows a significant improvement in delayed recall over time for those who were frequent online users, highlighting the role played by the internet in preventing the degeneration of mental abilities in the elderly.

Dr Tom Stevens, Consultant Psychiatrist at London Bridge Hospital says, "People over the age of 65 must remember the phrase 'use it or lose it', and the internet is a good way to ensure that older people are still able to use their mental faculties".

However, there is a need to educate older people about online dangers. Ben Williams, head of operations at open source ad control project AdBlock Plus warns, "...we mustn't forget that with more older people using the internet, they must be informed about the choices they have online. With no experience of online advertising, constant blinking banners and pop-up adverts could spoil the internet for them, making them think it is a tasteless and unmanageable jungle, and put them off the whole experience".

Older users are at more risk of being drawn into online scams and are likely to suffer more from the intrusiveness of ads such as pop-ups and banners that obscure their view and make it harder for them to use the internet effectively. Education is therefore an important factor in helping the elderly make the most of the internet and stay safe online.

Williams adds, "Plus, there are online risks that specifically target older users, such as phishing scams, or promotions of miraculous and discount medication, and low-cost insurance, and it is our responsibility to ensure that older people aren't ignorant about these. Basic lessons in how to stay safe and not put yourself in danger of online scams and viruses is essential".

You can read more about the study on the Journal of Gerentology website.

Photo Credit: Lighthunter/Shutterstock

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