Seniors who take part in activities that give the mind a workout may have a significantly reduced risk for developing dementia, report researchers from INSERM, the public health research organization in France. The study was published in the September 15, 2009 issue of the Neurology.
The research team led by Tasnime Akbaraly tracked almost 5,700 people over the age of 65 living in senior communities. The participants reported what kinds of activities they typically engaged in, and how often. The team classified the various activities into four groups: stimulating, passive, physical, and social. After following the participants for four years, the researchers found that 161 had developed some form of dementia.
Interestingly, the other types of activities (passive, physical, and social) did not show the same correlation with dementia risk.
Analyzing the data, Akbaraly’s team found that seniors who engaged in mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, art, card playing, and attending movies and theater productions, had a 50% reduced risk for developing dementia if they partook in these activities at least twice weekly. The same results were not found for those who engaged in the activities only once a week.
Interestingly, the other types of activities (passive, physical, and social) did not show the same correlation with dementia risk. For example, watching TV, listening to the radio, gardening, walking, and spending time with friends, showed no effect.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that keeping the mind busy and engaged may reduce the odds of developing dementia later on. The researchers underline that their “findings support the hypothesis that cognitively stimulating leisure activities may delay the onset of dementia in community−dwelling elders.”