New York, Jan 13: The elderly, if given brief mental training for a certain period of time, can perform everyday tasks with ease, says a study.
“As few as 10 sessions of cognitive training can help older adults improve their reasoning ability and brain processing speed compared with untrained participants as long as 10 years after the intervention,” said lead author George Rebok of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
These gains are even greater for those who got additional ‘booster’ sessions over the next three years, said the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Showing that training gains are maintained for up to 10 years is stunning because it suggests that a fairly modest intervention in practising mental skills can have relatively long-term effects beyond what we might reasonably expect,” added Rebok.
“Such interventions have potential to delay the onset of difficulties in daily functioning,” he added.
The researchers did a 10-year follow-up results of 2,832 participants (with an average age of 73.6 years at the start of the study) who were randomised in three intervention groups and an untrained control group.
Those in the memory training group were taught strategies for remembering word lists and sequences of items, text material, and the main ideas and details of stories.
Participants in the reasoning group received instruction on how to solve problems that follow patterns, which is useful for tasks such as reading bus schedules or completing order forms, said the study.
Individuals who received speed-of-processing training participated in a computer-based programme that focused on the ability to identify and locate visual information quickly.
Ten years later, participants in each intervention group reported having less difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living.
Nearly 60 percent of trained participants were at or above their starting level of function regarding daily tasks such as using medications, cooking and managing finances, added the study.
“Our findings provide support for the development of other interventions for senior adults, particularly those that target cognitive abilities showing the most rapid decline with age and that can affect their everyday functioning and independence,” said Rebok.
Cognitive decline is prevalent in older adults and can seriously affect the quality of life.