Shelia Cotten, a sociology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a team of graduate students introduced the Internet and its connections on Facebook, Google and Twitter to 80- and 90-year-olds.
In the study, the seniors, who were residents in independent and assisted-living facilities, were given eight-week computer-training courses.
Seniors who move into such facilities often become depressed because they lose regular contact with their established social networks, Cotten said.
However, communicating via e-mail and social networking sites appears to be a good remedy in reducing isolation. Fewer than 20 percent of the study participants had used computers beforehand, but after a couple of weeks in class, they surf the Internet just like their grand kids, Cotten said.
The study, scheduled to be published in Computers in Human Behavior, found Internet use reduced depression by 20 percent to 28 percent among older, retired adults.
"They no longer feel that life is passing them by and that they are left there to die," Cotten said in a statement.