Facebook’s memory benefits for seniors prompted a recent study of the cognitive effects of social media, and researchers learned a bit about how older Facebook users may benefit from the neural stimulation provided by the social network.
Facebook’s memory effects are often parsed by users as related to the ability of certain sorts of contact to resurface or influence — i.e., drunk pictures being deleted but not forgotten. But for seniors, the ballgame is a bit different, and Facebook could be a big boon for keeping one’s mind sharp.
Facebook’s memory effects on seniors — in particular, women over 65 — were examined by a grad student at the University of Arizona, Janelle Wohltmann. Wohltmann found that in a group of 42 seniors (divided into three subgroups, one of which was introduced to Facebook, one of which was given another online diary to use and a third which was “wait listed” for Facebook training), the effects of Facebook use were palpable.
“Her preliminary findings, which she shared this month at the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii, show that older adults, after learning to use Facebook, performed about 25 percent better on tasks designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their working memory – a function known in the psychology world as ‘updating.’ “
“The idea evolved from two bodies of research. One, there is evidence to suggest that staying more cognitively engaged – learning new skills, not just becoming a couch potato when you retire but staying active – leads to better cognitive performing. It’s kind of this ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis. … There’s also a large body of literature showing that people who are more socially engaged, are less lonely, have more social support and are more socially integrated are also doing better cognitively in older age.”
Further analysis on Facebook’s memory benefits for older users is in the works.