Zoom chats may protect older people against dementia, finds study

Another reason to have frequent conversations with your elderly loved ones online

Video calls have helped families stay in touch during the pandemic. Courtesy Unsplash
Video calls have helped families stay in touch during the pandemic. Courtesy Unsplash

Ever since the onset of the pandemic, people have taken to online platforms such as Zoom to keep in touch with their loved ones.

This has been all the more important for elderly people, who have been classed in the “vulnerable” section, thus restricting physical meetings and conversations.

And, as it turns out, there are scores of benefits for older people adapting to new technology to have conversations. According to a new study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, having meaningful conversations over online platforms can actually help people stave off the effects of dementia.

The study, conducted by the University of West London’s Geller Institute of Ageing and Memory studied the communication methods of 11,418 men and women between the age of 50 and 90.

Subjects were asked how they interacted with friends and family online and offline.

Participants then had a list of 10 words read out to them that they had to recall immediately and again at the end of the cognitive assessment.

The study found that those who only used traditional face-to-face communication showed more signs of cognitive decline than those who used technology to keep in touch with loved ones. Meanwhile, those who combined both online and offline modes of communicating showed better memory overall.

"This shows for the first time the impact of diverse, frequent and meaningful interactions on long-term memory, and specifically, how supplementing more traditional methods with online social activity may achieve that among older adults," says Snorri Rafnsson, who led the study.

“There are combined factors here, as learning to use and engage with online social technology can offer direct cognitive stimulation to keep memory function active. In addition, communicating through diverse channels can facilitate social support exchanges and interactions, which in turn benefit our brains,” he said.

In the UAE, Zoom had a 900 per cent user growth in 2020 because of Covid-19, with 100,000 new users within a week after the UAE authorised its use to facilitate remote working.

Updated: May 17, 2021 05:20 PM

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