Studies have shown that staying mentally active may help prevent cognitive decline, but does it make a difference if you’re a senior?
It could, according to a study published in 2017 in JAMA Neurology. Researchers found that playing a game, surfing the web, making crafts, and visiting with friends and relatives might help protect against mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Each of these types of activities was associated with a decreased risk of developing MCI among people in their 70s and beyond.
The researchers followed more than 1,900 adults (average age, 77) with normal cognition for four years. Those who regularly used computers were 30 percent less likely to decline mentally when compared with participants who didn’t do so. Those who made crafts, took part in social activity, or played games once or twice a week were also less likely to decline mentally when compared with participants who didn’t regularly engage in those activities; 28 percent, 23 percent, and 22 percent, respectively. Paradoxically, reading books did not demonstrate any significant protective effect against new-onset MCI.
Because of the study’s observational nature, the researchers could not prove that those activities ward off mental decline, in part because people at increased risk of MCI are less likely to engage in mentally stimulating activities. Still, other studies have reported similar results, which suggests that being mentally engaged might be beneficial. And if you’re a senior who enjoys reading, these findings are certainly no reason to curtail that pleasure-especially if you’re in a book club.