The temptation of screens to entertain, educate and connect us is both a blessing and a curse for young and oldish alike but recent data shows that adults over the age of 65 are watching more TV than teenagers. And all this sedentary behavior is keeping older adults from getting their recommended daily activity; in fact, only 16.4 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 are meeting the federal guidelines for weekly exercise.
According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the amount of time American adults over 60 spend in front of a screen has increased by nearly 30 minutes a day over the past decade. Other age groups spend about the same amount of time they did 10 years ago watching TV, videos or using tablets, smartphones or computers. And although older adults report feeling comfortable using technology, it could be to their determent.
All this screen time is also taking older Americans away from other activities, including face-to-face social interaction and physical activity. Education also plays a role in how much screen time older adults are getting; people with less education (a high school diploma or less) spend more of their free time on screens and less time reading or exercising. It is recommended that seniors over the age of 65 get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as walking or cycling each week.
It’s easy to make excuses or procrastinate on getting daily exercise but if you wake up in the morning and head out for a walk after your coffee or tea, it will set you up for a healthier lifestyle. Try scheduling a 30-40 minute walk with a neighbor, spouse or friend at a set time each morning and you will reap the benefits. According to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a moderate-intensity morning walk is not only good for physical fitness, but it has also been found to improve working memory in older adults. Sedentary behavior, however, is associated with cognitive impairment; besides a daily walk, it’s important to get up and move around every 30 minutes during the day.
Enjoy your tablet and the many ways it connects people of all ages from around the world, but don’t forget about how important in-person social interaction and physical activity is for overall health and well-being. Put the two together and it’s a winning combination!