Mental Training Helped Elderly Stay Sharp for Years

    12 February, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Some kinds of mental skills naturally decrease as people get older. Yet research seems to show that some training can improve such skills. A recently published study also appears to demonstrate that the good effects of training can last for many years after that training has ended.

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland wanted to learn how long memory and thinking skills would last in older people who trained to keep them. The people were part of a ten-year research project. They were taught methods meant to improve their memory, thinking and ability to perform everyday tasks.

    More than 2,800 volunteered for the study called ACTIVE - short for Advanced (Cognitive) Training for Independent and Vital Elderly. Most started when they were more than 70 years old.

    Mental Training Helped Elderly Stay Sharp for Years
    A brain workout is just as important as a body workout. (Seniors in Japan staying healthy.)

    The volunteers took one of several short training classes meant to help them keep their mental abilities. One class trained participants in skills including how to remember word lists. Another group trained in reasoning. A third group received help with speed-of-processing - speed of receiving and understanding information. A fourth group - the control group did not get any training.

    Earlier results had established that the training helped the participants for up to five years. Now, lead study writer George Rebok says, the research showed most of the training remained effective a full ten years later.

    Professor Rebok and his team found that the people trained in reasoning and speed-of-processing did better on tests than the control group.

    "We were wondering whether those effects would endure over time and would still be there ten years following the training, and in fact, that's exactly what we found."

    The effect on memory, however, seemed not to last as long. Still, the older people in any of the three classes generally reported less difficulty in performing daily activities than the control group. The total training time for the older people was between 10 and 15 hours.

    Professor Rebok and his team are now considering ways to provide such training for lower cost.

    "We are trying to make the training more broadly available. For example, we have a grant right now from the National Institute on Aging to try to make a web-based version of the ACTIVE memory training and put then the training online."

    One question still to be studied is how only a few hours of training can still be effective after ten years. The study appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Health Report. You can read more health reports on our website, where you'll also find lessons to help you learn everyday American English. I'm Chirstopher Cruise.