Volunteer Activities May Help Mental Decline

Two men playing chessSenior citizens can preserve their memory and cognitive abilities longer if they keep their minds and bodies active, according to a number of experts and researchers. 

A recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that volunteer activities appears to delay or reverse declining brain function in older people. Although this study was small, it adds to a growing body of literature suggesting that mentally stimulating lifestyles may help maintain or improve cognitive function in aging people.

Another study has found that people who were free of Alzheimer’s disease in later life were more likely to have engaged in mentally stimulating leisure activities when they were younger. These activities included playing chess, reading books, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.

An active social schedule also appears to be key to healthy mental stimulation.   A 2008 study from Harvard found that elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life have a slower rate of memory decline.

SOURCE: “Volunteering Keeps Older Minds Sharp”, MedPage Today, December 18, 2009

SOURCE:  Carlson M, et al “Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2009: 64; 1275–82. 


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