A special ‘cognitive training’ course helped older adults retain reasoning skills and processing speed for 10 years after the lessons ended, according to reports.
The brain exercise course could offer ways of keeping the mental faculties sharp as millions of baby boomers advance into old age, Reuters reported.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported on the federally-sponsored trial of 3,000 older adults, known as the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study (Active).
It looked at three brain training programmes, looking at processing speed, memory and reasoning ability and how it affected adults with normal cognitive abilities as they aged.
Subjects, with an average age of 74, were involved in 10 to 12 training sessions each lasting one hour or an hour and 15 minutes.
After five years, it was found that those who had the training performed better than those who had not.
After the five-year mark, gains in memory begin to drop off, but gains in reasoning ability and processing speed were consistent 10 years after the training.
George Rebok, a professor at Baltimore’s John Hopkins University, said the results were ‘astounding’.
Those who took part in all three training groups reported that they found it easier to get on with daily activities such as managing medication, preparing food or looking after their finances than those who did not take part in the scheme – although standard testing found no differences.
Jonathan King, of the Division of Behavioural and Social Research at the National Institute on Ageing, said the speed-of-processing results are ‘very encouraging’ in themselves.
He said the reported improvements in daily function were interesting, but added: ‘We do not yet know whether they would truly allow older people to live independently longer.’