A new study has pointed out that proper brain exercises can dramatically improve memory and enhance other cognitive skills in older adults.
Researchers at the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Centre say that the right kind of brain exercises can boost an elderly person's memory by ten years as well as their mental agility.
The researchers showed that over-65s who exercised their brain with a "brain revitalisation" computer program were found to considerably improve their memory and reported feeling more independent and confident.
Three quarters of those who used the program said they had noticed positive changes in their lives, according to lead author Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski.
"Doing the properly designed cognitive activities can actually enhance abilities as you age," the Telegraph quoted Dr. Zelinski, as saying.
The current study is said to be the largest study ever done on aging and cognitive training using a program available to the public.
In the trial of 524 healthy adults (aged 65 and older), half the participants completed up to 40 hours of the computer-based Posit Science Brain Fitness Program. The other half, who followed the traditional advice that older adults will benefit from new learning, completed up to 40 hours of a computer-based educational training program.
The group that engaged in the Posit Science program showed significantly superior improvements in standardized clinical measures of memory gains of approximately 10 years. This is the first research study to show generalization to untrained standardized measures of memory using a publicly available cognitive training program.
Participants using the Posit Science program also showed significant improvements in how they perceived their memory and cognitive abilities. This included questions about every day tasks such as remembering names and phone numbers or where they had left their keys as well as communication abilities and feelings of self-confidence.
"The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable - and significantly larger than the gains in the control group. From a researcher's point of view, this was very impressive - people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to various standardized measures of memory, and people perceived improvements in their lives," Dr Zelinski said.
Three-quarters of those who used the program said they had noticed positive changes in everyday life. Benefits ranged from remembering a shopping list without writing it down, to hearing conversations in noisy restaurants more clearly, to feeling more independent, more self-confident, and better about themselves overall.
The computer-based program includes exercises intended to improve memory and attention, as well as sharpness of hearing. Continuing, peer-reviewed studies suggest it can roll back mental agility by at least a decade.
"We've seen more than 10 years of improvement," said Jeff Zimman, the company's chief executive.
Users ended with "131 percent faster processing speed," meaning that the brain was more than twice as fast at taking in and processing information (such as speech), claimed the company.
"In processing speed, people who were on average 80 years old were performing like 30-year-olds in speed at those tasks," said Zimman.