IT use found helping adults over 80 in U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- A new study found that adults over the age of 80, at least in the United States, were likely to report using information and communication technology because it helps them connect with friends and family.

In addition, the study by Tamara Sims, a research scientist at the Stanford University Center on Longevity, and her colleagues indicated that those who said they used technology to primarily connect with loved ones reported higher mental well-being, and those who said they used technology mostly to learn new information reported being more physically fit.

"Critics say that people might not be able to connect with others as well as they used to because of the spread of new technologies," said Sims, a lead author on a research paper published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

"But there really is this bright side of technology, especially for older people, who may not have the opportunity to connect with many family members to the extent they want to due to physical limitations or geographical separation."

Previous studies have shown some association between social media use and better health among older adults, particularly lower levels of depression and loneliness.

However, as research tends to underrepresent people who are more than 80, most studies on the older population focus on adults over 65 years old.

Arguing that the population of people aged 80 and older is the fastest growing segment in the United States, Sims said "it's critical that we focus our attention on this age group because they are a ballooning demographic subgroup, but also because more and more of us are increasingly likely to reach very old age."

"For those over 80, people typically begin to face more and more health problems, which may prevent them from engaging with others as often as they would like. It's important to look at these populations separately."

As part of the study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 445 participants in the United States, ages between 80 and 93, online and over the phone.

The respondents were asked about their motivation for using information and communication technology, the definition of which included cellphones, personal computers, video streaming services and other digital applications.

The respondents were also asked how many devices they used and to rate their physical and mental well-being.

"I was going into it a little bit skeptical," Sims said in a news release from Stanford University about her initial expectations pertaining to a possible correlation between technology use and well-being.

"Part of me wondered whether the use of technology would make much of a difference for this population because pervasive stereotypes characterize this age group as technologically inept, in addition to being physically and cognitively frail."

Contrary to these stereotypes, most of the adults over 80 who were surveyed used at least one technological device regularly, and doing so was related to higher levels of self-reported physical and mental well-being.

"This group is viable for intervention," Sims noted. "The key here is that if you get them using these technologies, we could probably see some real benefits to quality of life in very old age."

However, she cautioned that "we can't say that using technology will directly improve the well-being of people over age 80."

"But our findings are suggestive of a viable pathway and may help to inform longitudinal interventions," she said.

[ Editor: Jiaming ]


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