Why do some older people seem as nimble mentally as a person in their 20’s and others have memory and other cognitive problems? Without a doubt there are multiple factors, some we know and some we don’t, that affect how well we age. There is exercise, diet, stress, access to medical care and other factors.
A fascinating research study that used brain imaging shows that mentally complex tasks are one of the contributing factors that help people become what are called: superagers. The authors state: “How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. My father-in-law, for example, swims every day and plays tournament bridge.”
The possible consequences of engaging in these activities, however, is fatigue, and frustration. This is normal but can be a disincentive. Tried to learn a new language lately? You get the point… Crossword puzzles won’t cut it. We know of home care agencies that are using programs to challenge older people with cognitive impairment in the hopes of improving their condition. Considering this study’s results, that just might be the case.