Senior Mental Acuity Gets Boost from Brain Training

Keep the Brain Sharp

Cognitive decline is a serious concern for older adults, not just those impacted by some form of dementia, but also for seniors who want to maintain mental acuity well into old age. A study to be published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports very encouraging results from a 10-year project of brain training in older adults. Study leader George Rebok says the findings show that even minimal intervention using training in mental skills can have a long-lasting impact on seniors’ cognitive functioning over time.

The purpose of the research was to determine if mental training could assist older adults by improving basic cognitive skills which would allow them to retain their independence and functioning longer. Almost 3,000 study participants were divided into three groups that received training in the areas of reasoning/ problem-solving, “speed-of-processing skills,” and memory retention. The memory group memorized lists and details of stories. The reasoning group learned to solve problems similar to the type they might encounter in daily living, such as filling out forms. The processing group was trained on computer programs that promoted speed of spotting visual information, helping the seniors to read things that change rapidly in their environment, such as sudden moves in traffic.

Compared to the control group, those study participants who received the mental training reported they were better able to perform daily tasks like taking medications and paying bills. Every year for 10 years, testing was done to gauge the effects. The strongest results were in the reasoning group with the best retention of their initial focused training. Some training members received booster sessions at different intervals, which further increased speed of processing and reasoning.

The results of this long-term study show a hopeful prognosis for older adults to learn and retain mental skills when they participate in activities and training that challenges them in later years.

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