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Depression Linked to Aging Can Prevented with Skype and FaceTime

According to a report, seniors who uses technology like internet and online applications improves their cognitive health. / Photo by: Getty Images

 

Technology isn't just for young people. Even the elderly are starting to adapt to new trends in modern society. In fact, the number of seniors who use the Internet has been increasing the past few years. About 43% of seniors engage themselves in several social media networks such as Facebook. According to Captioned Technology, there are a number of reasons why minimal internet usage can boost the overall quality of life. 

Since the elderly are in the last phase of their life, they often acquire diseases and are generally weak. They have a difficult time keeping up with their surroundings. Through technology, the elderly can obtain massive amounts of information, be entertained, and socialize at the same time. A report from the American Association of Retired Persons stated that seniors who are exposed on the internet can produce a positive impact on key areas of life such as personal fulfillment, health preservation, functional capability, social connectedness, and caregiver support. 

Seniors who have not yet retired from work can also benefit from the emergence of new technology. The United States Census Bureau reported that the number of older people who are currently working is expected to increase to 11.1 million this year, from more than 6.7 million in 2012.

Depression Linked to Aging

Most seniors often prefer to stay in the house and rest. They might find it difficult to exercise or do other chores. With technology, the elderly can play online applications to boost their brain function and increase cognitive longevity. In fact, scientists from Poland showed that those who are 65 to 75 years of age have an improved memory, an increase in sequencing abilities, and expanded attention by just completing several computer games. 

Additionally, life tends to be a series of extended episodes of isolation when one is older. Primarily because seniors are left in the house with no one to talk to. A recent study showed that depression may be linked to memory problems and brain aging. Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Ph.D. from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida said that it's essential to understand the relationship between memory problems and depression. 

The study also showed that the treatment being used in mental health conditions may also reduce thinking and memory problems. To prove this, the researchers analyzed 1,111 people who were all stroke-free with an average age of 71. About 22% of the participants were found to have potential symptoms of depression in the first part of the study. They eventually concluded that greater symptoms of depression were associated with worse episodic memory, which is a person's ability to remember specific experiences and events.

Additionally, participants who had greater symptoms of depression were reported to have smaller brain volume, with a 55% greater chance of small vascular lesions in the brain. The study also suggests that depression and brain aging may occur at the same time. 

Face-to-face Socializing

Most seniors probably live alone. Their kids may already have their own families and careers to keep themselves busy. With technology, communicating with our loved ones is just one click away. One can easily catch up with faraway friends and family just by using the Internet. However, a study by the researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) found that regular face-to-face social interactions are more effective in communication than exchanging messages through email or talking on the phone. 

Previous studies have shown that maintaining strong and healthy relationships in families can strengthen a person's mental health, but this study revealed that physically interacting with our loved ones can safeguard them from depression. Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., lead author of the study, also stated that all forms of socialization aren't equal. For instance, face-to-face interactions are more powerful than phone calls and digital communication. 

According to Science Daily, researchers analyzed the frequency of telephone, written, and in-person social contact in more than 11,000 adults aged 50 and above. They found that those who had minimal physical socialization with their loved ones had nearly double the risk of having depression. Meanwhile, participants who were able to communicate with their families had the lowest level of depressive symptoms. 

Skype and FaceTime in Mitigating Depressive Symptoms

While digital communication has been proven to increase one's chances of having depression, technology has found a way to connect loved ones in real-time although they may be far away. The researchers from OHSU conducted a recent study that showed that using video chat to communicate with family and friends has lower chances of having depression among seniors.

The researchers identified four main online communication technologies such as video chat, email, social networks, and instant messaging. Then, they analyzed over 1,424 people ages 60 and above. They concluded that those participants who had used social media platforms such as Facebook had the same rate of depressive symptoms as those who didn't use any online communication platforms at all. Meanwhile, those who were using video chat such as Skype and FaceTime had almost half the estimated probability of depressive symptoms. 

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a potential link between use of video chat and prevention of clinically significant symptoms of depression over two years in older adults," the authors wrote.

 

Seniors who are video chatting using Skype and Facetime prevents the risk of having depressive symptoms. / Photo by: agusyonok via 123rf

 

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