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Are you over 50? Using the internet could help you fight off dementia

So keep reading…

File photo of Dorothy Harrington at the Google/Age Action Silver Surfer Awards in Dublin.
File photo of Dorothy Harrington at the Google/Age Action Silver Surfer Awards in Dublin.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

REGULAR INTERNET USE can help stave off dementia, according to a new study in The Journals of Gerontology.

Researchers took eight years to study 6,442 people in the UK aged between 50 and 89, and tested their ability to memorise a 10-word-list.

The results found that those who used the internet and sent emails regularly performed better in the memory test when it was administered on four subsequent occasions.

This led the researchers, led by Brazilian scientist Dr Andre Junqueira Xavier, to the following conclusion:

Digital literacy – the ability to engage, plan, and execute digital actions such as web browsing and exchanging e-mails – can improve memory.
Digital literacy increases brain and cognitive reserve or leads to the employment of more efficient cognitive networks to delay cognitive decline.

All of which is to say:

Digital literacy may also reduce the incidence of dementia.

The study also found that cognitive decline was mitigated by higher wealth and education, and that elderly people with no digital literacy, functional impairment, diabetes, or depressive symptoms, experienced exacerbated cognitive decline.

In Ireland, recent figures from the CSO showed that in the 60-74 age group, regular internet use had almost doubled in the last five years, from 24% in 2008 to 48% in 2013.

Reacting to the study, Conor Breen, Policy Officer at the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), told TheJournal.ie while there has been a vast improvement in the number of older people using the internet, more must be done.

This potential reduction in cognitive decline is another benefit to getting online and yet half the older population are not using the internet regularly while only one in 10 over 65s use a smartphone.

Successive governments have done well in promoting the idea of digital inclusion, but more could be done for older people, particularly those who haven’t been using the internet in their working lives.
A dedicated strategy to train older people in use the internet, tablets and smartphones…would work well.

Scroll down to read the study in full, or read it over at The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

Read: Irish teens have high online literacy level>

Google offers free classes for over 50s to tackle low internet usage>

http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2014/08/j-gerontol-a-biol-sci-med-sci-2014-xavier-1117-21.pdf

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Dan MacGuill

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