Nana, you’ve got mail
(The following column appeared in the March 28 edition of the Tribune.)
Computer use, per recent studies, keeps senior’s brains working at a higher capacity. Recent studies including the study by ELSA “English Longitudinal Study of Aging” shows we can improve memory and the capacity to increase brain functions for future enhanced cognitive agility by surfing the Internet or, just as easily, by creating and checking emails. The study that was conducted started with the hypothesis ” Can Internet/Email Use Reduce Cognitive Decline?”
Per the study, besides “storing” cognitive ability (brain-based skills) for the future, digital literacy also leads to the use of more efficient cognitive networks to delay significant cognitive decline, in other words, we find new ways of maintaining the ability to getting the results we want, plus we can keep in touch with family and friends. The ability to create and format emails has an added benefit other than expanding one’s cerebral elasticity; it also allows an older generation to share with a younger generation a history rich with local and world events. The results of this study actually make common sense. Digital literacy involves more than just pressing buttons on the keyboard. Searching for what we want on the Internet involves thinking, planning and carrying out what we want to do. Evaluating what we find and sharing it in emails with others utilizes all facets of our cerebral functions. And, it’s not just computers; smart phones, tablets and laptops play a part in our digital literacy, as long as we understand how to use them and we are committed to using them often.
The study used a large group that consisted of 6,400 adults with an age range of age 50 to 89, with annual retests, for eight years. As tests of memory, they were given 10-word lists for later recall.
The conclusion was that good health, financial status, education, and digital literacy resulted in better memory. Those who didn’t use the Internet specifically, showed declines. Current users increased their recall capability and quality of life by being active on the Internet, especially keeping an interactive correspondence via e-mail.
The good news is that over half of seniors between 65 and 74 have Internet access, in the United States. One of the operative words in the study was financial status. You have to be able to afford computer access as well as Internet access, but not everyone can afford these items, even if it is for such an important issue as our mental well-being. However, there are ways to get around this. The Heart of America Library has computers for use by all, including seniors, or if necessary rely on family and friends for access. But, whatever it takes get involved. Remember, keeping in touch with family and friends by our seniors gives your loved ones a peace of mind knowing you are well. So take the leap of becoming computer literate and set up an e-mail account to keep in touch with those you love and who love you; the mind you could be saving could be your own.
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