The myth that aging means inevitable cognitive decline is a common misconception. As a part of our mission to change the way the world ages, Home Care Assistance hopes to dispel these myths around aging and focus on the positive side of growing old. Another proponent of positive aging, Sandra Chapman, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Director at the Center for BrainHealth, casts light on one of the benefits of aging with her article, “The Potential of the Aging Mind”, which highlights research on how some brain functions actually improve with age.
Research led by Joshua Hartshorne from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took a unique approach by looking at what brain functions make up intelligence as opposed to viewing intelligence as a single measure. The study examined specific mental functions and found the age at which each function peaked. For instance, they found that memorizing facts such as names, dates and places peaked in fifteen to eighteen year olds, whereas working memory, or the ability to retain new information and use it at a given time, peaked in individuals in their mid-20’s. Out of the need for more experience, emotional intelligence and vocabulary don’t peak until decades later.
Expanding off of Hartshorne’s research, Chapman and the Center for BrainHealth launched a study titled “Healthy Brain, Health Decisions: The MetLife Study of Decision-Making Potential”. They studied the cognitive health and decision-making abilities in healthy adults in their 50s, 60s and 70s and found that none of the groups’ decision-making abilities declined. They also found that strategic learning capacity, the ability to focus on important information, while ignoring less important distractions, may improve with age.
The oldest group of participants performed better than the younger groups on measures of conscientiousness and vigilance, or the ability to consider all options before making a decision. For example, older individuals avoided being hyper-vigilant, or jumping to an immediate conclusion before considering all options. This research suggests that what the brain may lack in processing speed, it makes up for in thoughtfulness, thereby not affecting its overall decision-making abilities.
With age comes a diversity of knowledge and experiences that explain the popularity of the adage, “old and wise”. And by continuing to mentally challenge ourselves, there is nothing stopping the brain from learning new concepts or skills well into our 70s, 80s or 90s!
Neuroplasticity, the concept that experiential and environmental influences can produce changes in the brain, supports the idea that exercising our brain can produce real results regardless of age. The concept of neuroplasticity is the foundation of the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, an activity-based cognitive stimulation program that enhances mental acuity and improves quality of life by exercising different cognitive domains. To learn more about the Method, please visit www.HomeCareAssistance.com/Cognitive-Therapeutics-Method.