'Landmark' study: Social media training increases nursing home residents' cognition

Seniors in long-term care experienced multiple cognitive and emotional benefits from being trained in how to use social media, according to findings from a “landmark” study in the United Kingdom.

The Ages 2.0 project involved nearly 80 “vulnerable” participants, who were between 60 and 95 years old. They were all receiving services through Somerset Care Ltd., and resided either in the community or in one of Somerset's facilities.

Compared to a control group, the study participants displayed improved cognition, a greater sense of self-competence and self-identity, and were more socially engaged, the investigators found. They were given a touchscreen computer and keyboard and three months of training in how to use social media such as Facebook and Skype, and kept the computer for a one-year period.

“We're always keen to build upon and ensure continuity of our integration success and Ages 2.0 has provided the perfect research mechanism to help promote discussions around future models of care,” stated Mandy Seymour, chief executive at Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust, a partner in the project. It was led by the University of Exeter, which announced the results Friday.

To see if the findings hold across different cultures, the study also is taking place in Italy.