Dementia is a risk all seniors face. The recent results of a longitudinal study, called ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) show that it might be possible to reduce that risk. The results were reported in the conference proceedings of the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference held in July 2016 in Toronto.
This study showed that speed training on particular computer programs greatly decreased the risk of dementia, better than any of the usual brain exercises can, such as working on memory building, learning new skills, and doing puzzles. The speed training, done with specific computer exercises, helps the brain learn to quickly process information, which is what experts believe delays or prevents the onset of dementia. The researchers estimated that incidences of dementia decreased for speed-trained participants by as much as 48% over a ten year period if they were trained for ten hours initially and then given booster training at the one and three year marks.
Details of the Study
The study took place over a span of ten years and was conducted on 2,832 adults. Their age average was just shy of 74 years old. Each study subject participated in one training group, and there were four different groups. The activities included memory exercises in a classroom-based setting, reasoning training in a classroom-based setting, and speed training on a computer program. The last group did no training at all and served as the control group.
The participants went through a series of ten sessions and were then followed at specific increments. The results were displayed after one year as well as at the two, three, five, and now the ten year markers. The results showed that the smallest amount of dementia occurred in the group that underwent the speed training.
Details of the Program
What is the magical program that is producing such amazing results? The exact program is not available on the general market, but a good version, which is more user friendly, is called Double Decision. This program, which seniors can subscribe to for under $100 per year, gives seniors a screen in which they must identify an object in the center of their vision as well as one in their peripheral vision. Every time they get a match, the process speeds up; in addition, distractions are placed in the field of vision to encourage faster processing. Because the useful field of view generally decreases as a person ages, this program helps to strengthen that skill and help users develop it rather than lose it.
Helping the Elderly Stay Cognizant
Caregivers who want to help an elderly one they care for to fight the risk of dementia may want to use this program. In addition to this, though, there are many ways family members and caregivers can help, including addressing the elderly person’s overall health. The following areas are important for someone fighting the risk of dementia:
- Physical exercise
- Proper nutrition
- Continual mental awareness
- Proper sleep
- Low stress
- Low levels of isolation
The speed training can help to further along the benefits of everything else that family members and caregivers do to encourage an elderly person to stay in good condition, but without a proper diet, exercise, good sleep patterns, and stress management, even speed training and other mental stimulation will not do the trick in preventing dementia. Helping seniors age gracefully means looking at the whole picture—not just focusing on mental stimulation.
The most important thing is for seniors to stay active. As physical impairments begin and aches and pains become a part of life, a sedentary life becomes more attractive. However, seniors should always stay active commensurate with their abilities. Staying active includes being social, which stimulates the brain and alertness. If the brain too can stay active through cognitive training, a senior has a better chance of aging gracefully and staying mentally young throughout the senior years—a time when he or she should be enjoying life the most.
Reddy, S. (July 25, 2016). Can This Brain Exercise Put Off Dementia? Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/this-brain-exercise-puts-off-dementia-1469469493. Accessed on August 1, 2016.
Feller, S. (July 25, 2016). Computerized brain training delays dementia development, study says. UPI. Retrieved from http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/07/25/Computerized-brain-training-delays-dementia-development-study-says/7591469451068/. Accessed on August 4, 2016.
Help Guide.org. Alzheimer’s and Dementia Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm. Accessed on August 1, 2016.
Rebok, G. W., Ball, K., Guey, L. T., Jones, R. N., Kim, H-Y., King, J. W. et al. (2014). Ten-Year Effects of the ACTIVE Cognitive Training Trial on Cognition and Everyday Functioning in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 62(1): 16-24. Europe PMC. Retrieved from http://europepmc.org/articles/pmc4055506 Accessed on August 5, 2016.