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Computer for Elderly Benefits Brain

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

We were thinking of getting my Dad a computer so that he can email us and keep in touch more often that way. His is in his 70's, so will he do okay with a computer?


Computer communication

Dear Computer communication,

There should be no reason why your father wouldn't be able to use a computer. You would need set it up for him and teach him how to use it, which shouldn't be too hard. Be sure and bookmark sites that he might go to often such as his email account, online news sources, or health sites. Having a computer can enhance ones life by staying connected to family and friends, and being able to learn and explore the Internet's rich source of information.

In addition, using a computer can energize the brain. Dr. Gary Small, Director of the UCLA Center on Aging, has numerous articles about the benefits of surfing the web on his website at Dr. Small conducted a study where elders age 55 to 76 read a book online or surfed the web looking for information. Brain scans showed that although both book reading and Internet searching stimulated the brain, the Internet searching lit up more areas of the brain, activating the complex reasoning and decision-making areas. Small states, "when your brain is on Google, your neural circuitry changes extensively," (Small cited in Benson, 2008). "Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function" (Small cited in Parker-Pope, 2008).

"This study suggests that a simple, everyday task like searching the Internet could be yet another way of strengthening neural circuits and creating greater brain efficiency in the frontal lobe" (Small cited in Haskins, 2008). Although the effect was more pronounced in the people with computer experience, when the computer naive folks practiced searching the Internet, "their brains started looking like the people who had done it for years" (Small cited in Haskins, 2008).

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