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Published on: March 30, 2012
by Traci Pedersen for Psych Central
Make time for games, puzzles, and handicrafts as you enter old age.
A new study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine shows that these activities reduce the risk, and help slow down the progress, of dementia in healthy elderly people.
The study revealed that healthy older adults were able to improve specific skills, such as reasoning, memory, language and hand-eye coordination with cognitive training.
Estimates show that by 2050 the number of people over 65 years old will have increased to 1.1 billion worldwide, and that 37 million of these will have dementia.
Previous research has shown that mental activity can lower a person’s risk of dementia, but the effect of cognitive training on healthy people is less well understood. To investigate this further, researchers from China studied the use of cognitive training as protection against mental decline for healthy elderly people who live independently.
Study participants were between the ages of 65 and 75 years old, with eyesight, hearing and communication skills sharp enough to be able to complete all parts of the training. For 12 weeks, the training sessions were an hour long, twice a week, and the subjects were given homework.
Training included a multiple approach system that tested memory, reasoning, problem solving, map reading, handicrafts, health education and exercise, or focused on reasoning only. “Booster training” was also provided six months later.
“Compared to the control group, who received no training, both levels of cognitive training improved mental ability, although the multifaceted training had more of a long term effect. The more detailed training also improved memory, even when measured a year later and booster training had an additional improvement on mental ability scores,” said research leaders Chunbo Li and Wenyuan Wu.
The findings show that cognitive training may prevent mental decline in healthy older people and help them live independently as they continue to age.
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