For some people, the New Year brings new concerns about the elderly folks in their lives. If that’s you, here’s something you should know: The internet strengthens the brains of even older people. Middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience were able to trigger key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the web. Use of the internet could be one of the main reasons why IQ’s are rising. But while more older adults than ever are using cell phones and computers, a technology gap still exists that threatens to turn senior citizens into second-class citizens.

Psychologists have found that both the attitudes and abilities of older adults pose barriers to adopting new forms of technology and urged designers to consider those barriers when developing new products. This is especially important for older folks, since from booking airline tickets to seeking health care information, almost everything is easier, cheaper or faster online. Neil Charness says, “The technology gap is a problem because technology, particularly computer and internet technology, is becoming ubiquitous, and full participation in society becomes more difficult for those without such access.”

It may take him longer, but Gramps can do it: Researcher Gary Small says, “We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function.”

So get Granny a computer! Researcher Teena D. Moody says, “[Our study] results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults.”

One thing that older folks always enjoy is a good radio show and they’ll also like using their computers for an interesting conversation. Our next chat will take place on January 6, and all you need to do to get them started is to subscribe today!

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