Miss Psychobabble: Day-to-day Activities that Improve Cognition For Older Adults

Image Credits: Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr with CC License
Our brains age but...you can do something about it.

Years down the road, you will be susceptible to mild cognitive impairment (MCI).  MCI encompasses problems with language, memory, attention, and planning.  It is a stage between expected cognitive decline brought by normal aging and the serious cognitive decline of dementia.  Truly, this will affect one's quality of life.  This is why it is important to find lifestyle activities that help avoid this condition.

Fortunately, according to a recent study, the risks of mild cognitive impairment in adults aged 85 and beyond can decrease once exposed to socializing, arts, and technology.  The socializing activities included:  interacting with friends, book club meetings, bible study sessions, and trip to theater, concerts or movies.  The artistic activities included: painting, sculpting, drawing, and crafts (e.g., pottery or sewing).  Lastly, the techie activities included: usage of Internet, online purchases, computer games, and web searches.

Out of all these activities, the strongest protective effect was the artistic ones.  People who regularly engaged on artistic activities were 73% less likely to develop memory and thinking issues, followed by socializing (55%) and computer use (53%).

Aside from this, here are two factors that help improve your cognitive functions as you age:

1. Openness to new experiences

If you believe that older people have fully lived their lives and that they cannot experience something new…think again!  One thing is constant in this world and that is change.  Changes give us opportunities to learn more.  Park et al. (2013)  found that learning demanding and new skills while maintaining an active social network are essential to staying sharp as you age.

2. Playing video games that promote multi-tasking

Modern technology enabled the researchers of University of California, San Francisco to create a specialized video game that may boost the mental skills of older people, particularly in multi-tasking.  Forty-six participants aged 60 to 85 were trained for four weeks through a video game called NeuroRacer.  The difficulty level increased as the player improved.  Interestingly, when the training was completed, the participants did better than the untrained 20-year-olds.  Furthermore, the skilled learned remained 6 months later without practice.

Our brains age but...you can do something about it.  It has an extraordinary ability to modify itself following the changes of your body and environment.  I suggest you use that to your advantage as early as you can.