UCLA medical researchers, when presenting to the Society for Neuroscience, reported that middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience showed increased activity in key brain regions after surfing the Web for an hour a day for just two weeks. It's the simple experience of seeking new information and keeping your brain engaged that stimulated activity in multiple areas of the brain. Playing Sudoku or pursing new hobbies offer similar benefits. But those subjects studied by UCLA who choose the Internet for mental stimulation tended to stay engaged the longest. According to Dr. Gary Small, the Internet offers immediate access to an unlimited range of social and intellectual resources that results in the Internet often enticing long-term sustained attention of the young and old alike.
According to the study, surfing the web may help older people ward off dementia and slow cognitive decline. It's not yet clear whether the brain improvements are temporary or not, but the important lesson is to keep the mind engaged and challenged however you do it. Becoming involved in new things and keeping your brain active are all hallmarks of activities that would tend to preserve your cognitive skills and these are all things that searching the Internet for new information really does.
So at Spring Arbor, we encourage our Residents and their families to get their cherished senior loved ones "net enable". Of course, regarding Residents and loved ones of diminished mental capacity, prudent supervision is absolutely critical. We all know the unscrupulous lurk out on the net, but the same tools that are used to monitor the youth's use of the Internet can be employed to protect our seniors.
The Internet can open doors to renewed acquaintances, genealogy, games, history, hobbies, and anything else you can imagine. With free online tools like "Skype", Grandma and Grandpa can have instant and free voice and video to their loved ones no matter where they reside on earth. The bottom line is the Internet offers the opportunity for our seniors to stay in touch and engaged. And no matter what the specific on line activity is, all researchers involved in this study agree that mentally stimulating activity (such as internet use) is beneficial to mental health.