The Internet provides us with instantaneous answers to any question we can imagine, educational opportunities beyond what we could have dreamed of a generation ago, socialization enhancement, and so much more. One of the more fascinating online developments for those of us in the senior care industry has been brain training programs – the computerized memory games and puzzles that promote enhanced cognitive functioning. But how well do they really work?
AARP has been exploring just that, sharing findings in a recent report, Engage Your Brain. And while further studies are needed to better understand the long-term impact of mind-stimulating activities, what we do know is that neuron connections can be strengthened through learning, resulting in the brain’s ability to change structure, function, and chemistry, a concept known as brain plasticity. And this ability remains in place as the brain ages.
In one study, the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE), seniors’ cognitive functioning and memory showed an astounding improvement of as much as 63% when utilizing online cognitive training programs. Not only that, but seniors who participated in the study displayed a 48% less chance of causing auto accidents, and were able to more efficiently handle such daily tasks as money management, taking medications, and more.
Dr. Michael Merzenich, co-founder of Posit Science (creators of the Brain HQ program), has run a number of clinical trials to better pinpoint the effects of certain online brain strengthening programs, in particular, whether cognitive decline can be reduced or slowed. The results indicated a marked improvement in memory, with participants’ memory recall equal to those ten years their junior. Conversely, activities like crossword puzzles did not show an impact on cognitive decline, with seniors who routinely engage in crossword puzzles still behind young adults in their level of functioning. And yet, when compared to other seniors who did not do crossword puzzles, functioning does seem to be a bit enhanced. Dr. Merzenich explains it as, “Crossword puzzles might improve your cognitive function, but it’s equally likely that having good cognitive function encourages you to do crossword puzzles.” Dr. Merzenich discusses his findings in more depth in this TED Talk.
It’s important for consumers to sufficiently research online programs that promise to enhance a senior’s memory or cognitive functioning level, as there have been several companies recently who have been shown to falsely advertise such claims.
North River Home Care offers opportunities for seniors to maximize cognitive functioning through mentally stimulating games, reminiscing, socialization and much more. Contact us at (781) 659-1366 for in-home assistance for your client or senior loved one!