Aging Parents and Memory: The Questionable Impact of Brain Games on Memory. Latest Research

Memory loss: At a certain age I think it’s safe to say everyone–aging parents and us– thinks about it. Many boomers and seniors play bridge, learn a new language, and train their brains using innovative technology, hoping to stave off memory loss.

But the effectiveness of brain-training technology seems to be questionable in real life, according to AARP’s 4/14/ 15 Brain Health Blog, “Major Report Shows What Works and What Doesn’t for Better Brain Health,” written by Elizabeth Agnvall. It’s based upon an April 2015-released Institute of Medicine of the National Academies report, COGNITIVE AGING–Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action co-sponsored by AARP, the National Institute on Aging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government and nonprofit organizations.

Ms. Agnvall discusses this “groundbreaking new report that spells out what older Americans can do to keep their brains healthy into very old age, while offering insight into the lifestyle habits and medications that can lead to cognitive decline.”

It’s an informative, not-to-be missed easy-to-read post (the study itself looks to be 373 pages). Find out, based on this latest reputable research: “What Helps,” “What Hurts,” and–quoted below–
“Buyer Beware.” 

  • Brain games and other cognitive training: Although research shows that brain training on computers and video games can improve attention and memory as they relate to the games, few studies show that those skills transfer to real life. The report recommends that consumers carefully evaluate claims of companies selling brain games. “People may fall prey to using products that have not been proven to be effective and think they will help them in all areas of their lives,” Blazer said.
  • Supplements: Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on dietary supplements, yet “there just is no good, consistent evidence that vitamins provide value in improving brain health,” Blazer said.
  • Vitamin E does not seem to help brain health and has been linked to a higher risk of death in large doses.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 provide no benefit to older adults who are not folate deficient.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a decline in brain health, but taking vitamin D supplements has not been shown to improve memory, motor speed or other aspects of brain health. Moreover, says the report, high levels of vitamin D are linked to attention problems and cognitive impairment.
  • Ginkgo biloba “is not considered effective in preventing cognitive decline.

So now we have the latest information on cognitive* aging as we try to help aging parents and ourselves age well.

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Note: *Cognitive– a term used often in my counseling, but probably not common to most–defined by Merriam‑Webster dictionary: of, relating to, or involving conscious mental activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering)

Related: Memory Posts–Click tab under header for past posts about memory

 Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

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