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Those who connect with technology more likely to live longer

Created date

April 10th, 2017
The Tuesday Night Dining Club (From left) Albert Kachadurian, Neal Monda, Bette Monda, Ellen Proper, Helen Emire, Kathy Blumers, Marcia Burch, Donna Inez, Ginny Deleo, Leo Thomas, Elaine Thomas, Doris Hiller, and Bob Regent.

The Tuesday Night Dining Club (From left) Albert Kachadurian, Neal Monda, Bette Monda, Ellen Proper, Helen Emire, Kathy Blumers, Marcia Burch, Donna Inez, Ginny Deleo, Leo Thomas, Elaine Thomas, Doris Hiller, and Bob Regent.

New research confirms that people who have stronger social networks—both online and offline—live longer. 

The study, published in the journal PNAS and based on 12 million social media profiles made available to researchers by Facebook, turned the tables on the longstanding belief by many that increased screen time could be detrimental to our health. While the paper itself acknowledges the paper’s “many limitations,” it does point to evidence that a combination of online and offline social interaction is a good balance for better health and a longer life.

Marcia Burch, 85, uses Facebook, Instagram, text messaging, and FaceTime to stay in touch with family across the country and to manage her busy social calendar from the convenience of her apartment home at Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J.

Face-to-face from far away

“For me, it’s very important to know when birthdays are and to keep track of my children and grandchildren. I like [Facebook] Messenger because I can answer my children’s questions or just shoot off something quick, and it’s private,” says Marcia, who has had a Facebook profile since she moved to the community in 2006. 

She says the evolution of technology is “mind boggling.” 

“When I was younger, we used to think twice before we would call someone because it was so much money,” Marcia says. “I’ve watched it evolve from my cell phone, which used to be big, to taking pictures on my iPhone or iPad and sending them instantaneously. The connection is just invaluable to me.”

Now, she uses a range of tools to reach her friends and loved ones any time she wants, whether it’s a quick emoji to one of her 14 grandchildren or a voice-to-text message to confirm dinner with neighbors at one of Cedar Crest’s three restaurants. 

“I have grandchildren who are all over the country. You don’t always pick up the phone and get them. It’s very important for me to let them know I’m thinking about them and I care. I can send them a heart emoji or something that lets them know I’m thinking about them. I am a fan [of emojis],” she says.

Marcia’s not the only emoji user at Cedar Crest. She and her neighbors use them to communicate quickly. Every Tuesday, Marcia hosts a festive dinner for friends at one of Cedar Crest’s restaurants. She decorates a table according to the season, birthdays, or other holidays and takes a photo to memorialize the occasion. 

“If it were not for my smart phone or iPad I would not be able to organize our Tuesday Night Dining Group and send out reminders. It does save having to phone each person,” she says.

Other nights, she and her partner, Albert Kachadurian, have a more casual dinner with friends. She uses emojis to confirm plans via text.  

“The other night, one of our friends asked if we could have dinner with them. I emojied back a knife and fork, glass of wine, a meal, and then a piece of cake. I did all that without using words. Then I said 5:30. I play with it, I really do,” she says. 

Emojis aside, she also communicates face-to-face using FaceTime. 

For example, Marcia’s daughter in Virginia took her on a FaceTime tour of her newly staged home before she listed it for sale.

“She took me all over the house to show me what she had gotten rid of,” Marcia says.

Accessible at a distance

As the social media study suggests, a balance between online and offline interaction could positively influence health and lifespan. Marcia’s a tech-savvy senior, but she’s also an active one. She participates in numerous clubs and activities at Cedar Crest and uses a variety of technology to communicate with fellow club members. 

“I’m in a lot of committees, and to be able to shoot off a text and communicate instantaneously to a group is so helpful and interesting to me,” she says.

What’s more, she dictates her committee reports to her iPad and sends them to club members from the convenience of her apartment. Secure Wi-Fi is included in her monthly service fee, a convenient package that includes utilities, property taxes, a flexible meal plan, use of all amenities, and 24/7 home maintenance. 

“Social media has expanded tremendously the number of friends and family who are at a distance who can still know what’s going on,” says Marcia. “Friends and family are so accessible; that’s most important to me.” 

In touch

Cedar Crest and its managing company, Erickson Living, recognize the benefits of connecting through Facebook and other social media sites. Each of Erickson Living’s 19 communities located in 11 states has its own Facebook page.

“The Facebook page has two goals: awareness and connection,” says Erin Vernon, social media program manager at Erickson Living. “Through Facebook we aim to increase engagement and interaction among residents, prospective residents, employees, and family members. Facebook provides the perfect venue to showcase the lifestyle we offer and to invite everyone to connect and come together. Consumers are always more interested in what other customers have to say.”

Staying current

Visit the Cedar Crest Facebook page, and you’ll find interesting stories about the people who live and work at the community, as well as events and programs on campus. 

“It’s a great resource to keep updated on what is happening on campus as well as interact with residents and staff,” says Cedar Crest Public Relations Manager Petra Shaw. “We encourage everyone to post their own photos to the page.” 

Residents, prospective residents, employees, family members, local officials, and industry partners regularly chime in on the conversations with likes, shares, and comments. “Our residents and employees are the stars of Erickson Living, and our Facebook fans love hearing about them,” Vernon says.

In addition to the community pages, Erickson Living has a corporate social presence on Facebook as well as TwitterInstagramYouTubePinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.