Study: brain training can keep older adults sharp for 10 years

According to the results of a recent study, engaging in brain training exercises can keep the mind of an older adult sharp for up to 10 years after doing them.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently released the largest study ever done on cognitive training, which tested and monitored the cognitive functions of nearly 3,000 trial participants as they partook in three different brain training programs. Those involved underwent a brief course of daily brain exercises that focused on processing speed, memory and reasoning ability. Researchers found that the participants, who had an average age of 74, had improved reasoning skills and processing speeds for up to a decade following the study. 

George Rebok, the professor at Johns Hopkins University who led the study, spoke to Reuters about his findings.

"What we found was pretty astounding. Ten years after the training, there was evidence the effects were durable for the reasoning and the speed training," he told the source.

This study offers a glimpse into how best to create a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

Processing speed, memory and reasoning ability
Throughout the course of the study, researchers focused their training on teaching strategies to best improve cognitive functions. Seniors were given daily memory exercises that taught them to memorize lists, words and sequences, while reasoning ability activities focused more on recognizing numerical patterns. To test processing speed, participants were asked to focus on one object while identifying others using only their peripheral vision. 

While brain fitness company Posit Science released a version of the speed training program available for purchase, there are several other ways seniors can increase brain training on their own. From flashcards to websites such as Lumosity.com, activities that keep the brain exercised and fresh each day can lead to better memory care and improved functioning.

Increased functioning in daily activities
While researchers could find no discernable difference between seniors who had participated in the study and those who had not when it came to daily functions, participants reported they had a much easier time handling day-to-day activities after the course was completed. They claimed daily chores such as taking medication and cooking meals were not as difficult to perform as they were prior to their training.

Although researchers could not draw a definitive conclusion when it came to the improved completion of daily tasks, they did agree that any gains in cognitive function could allow seniors to remain in independent living for longer than previously believed.