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Study: Tablets Help Bring Elderly Online

Shelia Cotten
Shelia Cotten – MSU/MSU College of Communication Arts and Scienc

Researchers at Michigan State University have found that tablets are the best way to bring the elderly into the digital age, which they also say is strongly correlated with staving off depression.

MSU professor of media and information, Shelia Cotten, authored the study. It can be found in the current issue of Educational Gerontology. Her team found that tablets removed many of the barriers that made Internet access difficult for the elderly. The primary problems that prevented widespread access were motor-related in nature. Essentially, the typical desktop or laptop set up is too difficult to use for those who have limited or decreased motor control. A mouse, for example, is very difficult to grasp and navigate about.

Cotten spoke to MSU Today about the problems. “The dexterity required to control a mouse is really hard for some older adults. A certain level of muscle control is needed. And some older adults have shaking issues, in addition to muscle-control issues in their hands and arms.” She continued on to say that “for the most part they [tablets] are pretty easy to operate. You don’t have to click on 12 different things to do what you want to do. It helps to ease their tech anxiety.”

Last year in a related study, Cotten found that Internet access allowed the elderly to maintain relationships they would otherwise not be able to, positively affecting overall mental health and strongly decreasing risk of depression. The study, “Internet Use and Depression Among Retired Older Adults in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis,” was published in the The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.



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