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Tech-savvy seniors and longevity

September 30, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Researchers have long suspected that seniors who are tech-savvy and connected to social media live healthier and longer lives. The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to try to find out why.

The study will outfit about 300 seniors in the Austin, Texas area with wrist wearables and cell phone apps to “examine how social engagement—connections to family, friends and community—mitigates potential cognitive and physical declines in late life and improves well-being,” explains Karen Fingerman, a professor in the university's Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and the study’s lead investigator, in a university press release.

The study will track seniors’ physical activities (via caloric measurements) and social/cognitive activities (via cell phone apps) in real time. Data collection will include both self-reported data and technology-gathered data, hoping to discover any reporting differences between them.

"It's fascinating to see what people think about themselves, versus what we can measure objectively about them," Fingerman says. "We have low self-awareness in our lives. We're going to be able to capture what's really going on with people that they may not be able to tell us."