Are Mentally Stimulating Activities the Key to a Sharper Mind Later In Life?

Two senior men play game together

Keeping your mind sharp later in life may have to do with how much mental activity you participate in.  Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have found that older adults who enjoy puzzles and crossword puzzles and other mentally engaging pastimes scored higher on standard tests for mental sharpness, while they were no less likely to show signs of mental decline over time than other older adults.  These older adults who were involved in mentally stimulating activities declined, but from a higher stand point, known as ‘cognitive reserve’.

Roger Staff, the lead researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland says: “The results indicate that a lifetime of engagement lifts you to a point from which you decline, and that can be considered as passive cognitive reserve.  Starting from a high point will mean that the threshold at which you are considered impaired will be farther into the future.”

Yet another interesting study was done to see if mentally stimulating activities had an impact on aging minds.  It was a study that was published in the BMJ Journal which followed 500 British adults who had, starting in the 1940’s, taken identical intelligence tests.   At the age of 64 they were all asked to answer questions about whether or not they engaged in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, games, and puzzles, and they also took memory and thinking tests over the next 15 years.   The results were very interesting, to say the least.  While they all showed mental decline, those that participated in more mentally stimulating activities such as puzzles actually did better on the memory and thinking tests. 

So think about it – what mentally stimulating activities do you participate in on a regular basis? Here are some you may want to try:

  • Puzzles such as crossword puzzles, sudoku, and word find 
  • Card games
  • Trips to the museum
  • Reading
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Taking courses and learning a new skill
  • Sewing
  • Carpentry
  • Writing poetry or short stories
  • Painting or drawing
  • Collecting

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnoses or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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