Your Health: Aging and Cognitive Function

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Updated: 1/18/2012 5:58 pm
New research finds that when older adults are given tasks to sharpen their thinking skills, it can help them become more open and willing to experience new things. This new study in the Journal Psychology and aging looked at 183 adults over age 60. Half were given training sessions and homework to help improve their cognitive function, and the other half were not. Researchers asked those in the cognitive group to complete everyday problem-solving tasks such as reading a bus schedule, or to identify patterns in a series of numbers or letters. The goal of the research was to challenge but not overwhelm the seniors. Study participants were followed for 16 weeks. Every 7 days, the group in training handed in their work and got new material that was slightly more difficult. By the end of the study, the researchers found that those who had been cognitively challenged scored higher on tests that measured openness toward new experiences. They tended to think more creatively and sought out new and mentally challenging experiences more than their peers who didn't have the training. The researchers conclude that when seniors learn at a pace that is challenging but not daunting they seem to be more receptive to new experiences.
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