Health Wellness
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According to new research in the journal JAMA Neurology, activities that stimulate the mind can help prolong the mental health of seniors. So next time you’re hanging with your parents or grandparents, bring along your laptop or a deck of cards — it might just help to keep them healthy.

Researchers followed nearly 2,000 cognitively healthy participants aged 70 to 93 for four years, and every 15 months or so, the participants were polled on how often they did certain activities and had their brain function assessed.

Although more research is needed to confirm the findings, the study suggests that “being engaged mentally is good for brain health.”

The research looked at five activities in particular:

  • playing games like bridge or chess
  • going to movies or participating in other forms of socializing
  • doing crafts
  • using a computer (can be as simple as surfing the web)
  • reading books

With the surprising exception of reading books, researchers found a correlation with the other four activities and prolonged mental health. Well that’s strange — we figured reading would be the most helpful. Shows what we know…

“Cognitively normal elderly individuals who engage in specific mentally stimulating activities even in late life have a decreased risk of incident mild cognitive impairment,” the study concludes.

In fact, subjects were between 20 to 30 per cent less likely to develop dementia during the four year study if, at least once a week, they participated in one of the four activities.

This doesn’t mean you have to rush out and buy the latest mind stimulating games and gadgets for your aging loved ones either.

“They don’t have to spend their life savings,” said Yonas Geda, the study’s senior author and a neurologist in Arizona. The “computer time” in the study excluded virtual games and focused on simple activities like searching the internet or checking emails.

So, if the seniors in your life hold any of these habits — playing games, surfing the web, socializing or sewing — you should encourage them to keep at it. And if they don’t, well, they’re never too old to learn. And neither are you.