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Too Much Screen Time: Older Adults Are Guilty Too!

Whether you'd call yourself a proper "couch potato" or do your best to limit time in front of the "boob tube," there's a good chance your relationship with TV might warrant a closer look! Not so long ago, having a television in your home was an absolute luxury. Now, TVs are more affordable and accessible than ever. So much has changed (and continues to change) in the world of media and broadcasting.

According to the A.C. Nielsen Company, over 96% of households in the U.S. receive a TV signal. That's 121 million homes for the 2020/2021 viewing season. The average American consumes more than 4-hours of programming each day. By the time we turn 65, we have spent 9 of those 65 years watching television!

On top of that, a recent study shows that 42% of respondents reported watching “a lot more TV” during the global pandemic. The survey indicates this is more than a 5% increase compared to prior years. Stay-at-home orders left some people with few options. Similar research shows a much more significant increase in online/mobile media. What does that mean? We’re spending a lot more time on the internet via our computers and phones.

It wasn't that long ago when we only had 3 or 4 channels to choose from, which often required some TV antenna adjustment to clear the picture. While states like Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania received cable in 1948 to enhance poor reception, most of us had to wait until the 1980s or 90s to bring that digital luxury into our homes. Today, it's estimated that there are almost 1,800 channels of programming to watch.

As we age and certain physical activities become more challenging, many people spend considerably more time in front of the TV. It's easy to understand why—television is an entertaining pastime! But what are the consequences of too much television?

Research tells us that too much time we spent in front of the TV damages our social lives, psychological well-being, and physical health. Using the television to "keep us company" comes at a price. A new study of older adults found that those who watched at least three and a half hours a day suffered a significant decline in verbal memory. Could this be the "brain rot" our parents claimed too much TV would create?

The more television we watch, the more it's believed to become addictive and increase our anxiety (especially those 24- hour news channels). Sedentary behavior along with mindless snacking can raise the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and with time can even cause seniors to develop a walking disability, among other issues.

What about smartphones?

Handheld technology has increased "screen time" for older adults just like it has for kids. It's believed 75% of seniors spend some time online every day. Many more adults are on a smartphone today than ever before. Those older adults are also active on their phones: texting, emailing, using the navigation feature, searching the internet, or utilizing apps.

Do as I say, not as I do!

When we notice a family in the restaurant staring at their phones, we can quickly judge. No question that younger generations are consuming more screen time from computers and smartphones than older generations. It's a symptom of the technology age in which they were born. Schools now use tablets and computers in the classroom. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children between ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours daily on a screen while teenagers spend up to 9 hours daily. And older adults spend an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a television every day as well. You know where this is going. Yes, all of us are guilty of too much "screen time."

As the fall months approach and more pleasant outdoor temperatures arrive, it could be the perfect time to "unplug" for a while. To unplug means to wait a little longer in the morning before you flip on the television, leave your computer closed for long periods, and try strolling through your neighborhood instead of scrolling through your phone. We all need to get back to doing good things for the body, mind, and soul.

By making a concerted effort to unplug every day, you give yourself time for activities you once enjoyed or a chance to start a new hobby. When we learn something new, our curiosity rumbles and forces us to use our most powerful muscle—the mind. Research tells us that when you're learning, you're staying sharp and improving cognitive function. Your emotional health and physical health are better, too.

So, the next time you find yourself mindlessly flipping through channels in your recliner, give your brain a boost by hitting the off button. And, if you want to get out to visit a new neighbor, give us a call at Melrose Meadows. We would love to invite you in for a look around to see what's keeping our residents active, engaged, and happy.

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