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April 30, 2014


April 30, 2014

Wait. What? You’re on Facebook and want to be my friend? Aren’t you, like, too old for that? Video games are for young people. Trust me, you wouldn’t know how to use an iPhone.

Ever heard a young person say any of those things? Yes, it’s true—to the horror of some teenagers, older generations have taken over Facebook, forcing them to look for new venues like Snapchat and Instagram. We’ve gotten iPhones and might even try our hands at Wii or Xbox occasionally.

Many teens think they have the corner market on wanting to keep in touch with friends and share experiences. I think they think you hit a certain age and stop wanting to have fun or try new things. Little do they know, most of us are pretty similar to the teenagers we once were—we just have 3 million more responsibilities and knees that make strange sounds when we go up stairs.

To a young person, the Internet, video games and iPhones are a lot about fun and friends. But, what if it was your lifeline? What if technology was more than just fun? What if it could help keep you healthier? Would you roll your eyes at your grandma being on Facebook if it meant she was happy?

Shelia Cotten, a professor of telecommunication, information studies and media found that Internet use among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent. That’s pretty incredible. After her research was published, she received an unsolicited email from a 91-year-old gentleman in the United Kingdom.

He told her his wife died nine years ago and he struggled until his daughter and grandson swapped out a sewing machine for a computer. He now uses it to send mail, Skype with family and keep in touch with people.

He wrote, “I do not think I would have reached my age without the computer and now I take it for granted, but it was a lifeline that has turned these last few years into a feeling that I am no longer living alone.”

For the elderly, the Internet is clearly more than Buzzfeed quizzes, duck face poses, 10-second videos and relationship statuses. It’s a way to be engaged with the world. It’s connection. It’s life.

Read more about Cotten’s work in the MSUToday story, “Internet use can help ward off depression among elderly.”

Sandra Spoelstra, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, also is looking at ways that new technology can be used to help keep people healthy, particularly the elderly. She researches health topics such as physical function and falls across the cancer trajectory, long-term care in the community setting, fall prevention and voice and text messaging to promote treatment adherence. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Sleeping with your iPhone, to learn about how using an iPhone can help elderly cancer patients not only stay in touch with loved ones, but also serve as a way to call for help, get prescriptions refilled or even receive text reminders about physical activity, nutrition and medication adherence.

Here at MSU, we’re constantly exploring ways to use technology to change people’s lives, and it’s not just faculty researchers.

MSU has a video game design specialization within media and information studies in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. You might be surprised to learn it’s not all about entertainment and top scores in games. MSU has worked with games that can help with kid’s nutrition, exercise, financial literacy, cancer rehab and more.

Peter Burroughs is an Honors College freshman in the video game design specialization. One reason he came to MSU from his hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio, was because of the chance to choose that area of study. Watch his video in the MSU STUDENT VIEW: Game Boy, to learn more about his first-year experience at MSU.

The next time you check your newsfeed, send a text or post a photo, have fun. But also think about how important this “fun” technology has become for those who can’t get out, are isolated from their families or are facing a health challenge. Helping people stay connected is definitely a big “Like.”

Spartans Will.


Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday

Photo by G.L. Kohuth


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