Activities such as using computers, solving puzzles and engaging in mind-challenging tasks might work better in keeping dementia at bay, according to a new study. These activities also seem to work better than knitting, painting or social interactions, the findings showed.
The new study, by researchers from Monash University, showed that older participants who regularly engaged in literacy and mental acuity tasks such as taking educational classes, journaling, and doing crosswords were 9 to 11% less likely to develop dementia. Notably, these activities showed better results than crafting, which showed only a 7% decrease in risk, according to the press statement by Monash University. The study used data from more than 10,000 Australian adults aged 70 and older.
However, social networking and going out for a good meal or film were not associated with dementia risk reduction, in contrast to previous studies. For instance, a 2022 study published in the journal American Academy of Neurology showed that social activities such as spending time with family or attending a class were linked to a reduction in dementia risk.
Recognising activities that can prevent or delay dementia is a global priority but most studies focus on one or two specific leisure activities, rather than a range of activities that older people can engage in, Joanne Ryan the study’s senior author, said in the statement,
Commenting on the results Ryan said in the statement, “I think what our results tell us is that active manipulation of previously stored knowledge may play a greater role in dementia risk reduction than more passive recreational activities. Keeping the mind active and challenged may be particularly important.”
Moreover, even though social connections didn’t show a clear link with dementia risk reduction, it could still be important as previous studies have revealed. “While engaging in literacy and mental acuity activities may not be a magic pill to avoid dementia if that was your goal and you had to choose, our research certainly suggests these are the activities most likely to support prolonged good cognitive health,” Ryan said in the statement.
Some of the activities that seemed to work include adult literacy activities such as computer use that engages several brain regions that have to coordinate with the motor skills used when typing. Furthermore, mental activities such as doing crosswords and puzzles, and playing games such as chess which involves problem-solving as well as a bit of social interaction might also help reduce dementia risk.