The Technology That Lessens Depression in Lonely Seniors

 

A recent study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry indicates that a specific form of technology can reduce depressive symptoms in lonely seniors by as much as 50 percent. Over 1,400 aging adults participated in the study, which was conducted at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. The researchers examined four different types of online technology—email, instant messaging, social media, and video chatting—to determine which best helped lonely seniors feel less isolated and depressed.

The results indicated there was no major difference in depressive symptoms between seniors who used social media platforms, like Facebook, and those who did not. The difference, according to the study, was seen in those who regularly used video chatting technology, like Skype or FaceTime.

“We found face-to-face, in-person time came out on top,” said Dr. Alan Teo, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and lead researcher for the study. “Phone and email were not as beneficial.”

After taking into consideration any pre-existing health conditions that may cause depression, Dr. Teo and his team found that seniors who used video chatting to keep in touch with family and friends displayed half as many depressive symptoms as those who did not.

The Benefits of a Tech Connection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults older than age 65 have experienced feelings of depression at some point during later adulthood. One reason may be that older adults often receive less socialization and interaction with others due to age-related limitations, such as failing health or driving restrictions. As family and friends move away or pass on, senior adults can feel even more empty and alone.

The outcome of Dr. Teo’s study indicates that modern video chatting technology affords older adults an opportunity to stay connected with loved ones in a way that is most similar to actual, face-to-face interactions. Because of this comparison, video chatting has a unique ability to make seniors feel less isolated and depressed.

“The more frequently seniors got together with loved ones [on a video call], the lower the rates of depression…even years later,” said Dr. Teo.

Socialization is Important for Mental Health

Because the study relied on personal accounts of depression or loneliness as relayed by the participants, the outcomes are circumstantial and not scientific proof that lonely seniors can benefit from video chatting. However, the study’s findings are still compelling enough to warrant additional, more in-depth studies by Dr. Teo in the near future. What is known, however, is that a lack of socialization can have long-term, negative effects on one’s mental health.

Older adults who aren’t familiar with video call technology may want to contact their local senior center, as they often offer free technology classes. Seniors can also ask their adult children or grandchildren for help learning how to use Skype, FaceTime, or any other video chatting program.

For seniors who feel video chatting isn’t enough, an assisted living community, like Grand Oaks of Okeechobee, may be an ideal solution. Along with superior medical care and compassionate staff members, Grand Oaks residents enjoy lots of comradery, socialization, and engaging activities.

For more information, call 863-692-7222 or visit www.grandoaksokeechobee.com.