Journal Article

Cognitive Benefits of Online Social Networking for Healthy Older Adults

Janelle W Myhre, Matthias R Mehl and Elizabeth L Glisky

in Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences

Published on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America

Volume 72, issue 5, pages 752-760
Published in print September 2017 | ISSN: 1079-5014
Published online March 2016 | e-ISSN: 1758-5368 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbw025
Cognitive Benefits of Online Social Networking for Healthy Older Adults

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  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Gerontology and Ageing

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Abstract

Objectives

Research suggests that older adults who remain socially active and cognitively engaged have better cognitive function than those who are isolated and disengaged. This study examined the efficacy of learning and using an online social networking website, Facebook.com, as an intervention to maintain or enhance cognitive function in older adults.

Method

Forty-one older adults were assigned to learn and use Facebook (n = 14) or an online diary website (active control, n = 13) for 8 weeks or placed on a waitlist (n = 14). Outcome measures included neuropsychological tests of executive functions, memory, and processing speed and self-report questionnaires about social engagement.

Results

The Facebook group showed a significant increase in a composite measure of updating, an executive function factor associated with complex working memory tasks, compared to no significant change in the control groups. Other measures of cognitive function and social support showed no differential improvement in the Facebook group.

Discussion

Learning and using an online social networking site may provide specific benefits for complex working memory in a group of healthy older adults. This may reflect the particular cognitive demands associated with online social networking and/or the benefits of social engagement more generally.

Keywords: Executive function; Social interaction; Social media; Technology; Training; Working memory

Journal Article.  6432 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geriatric Medicine ; Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Gerontology and Ageing

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