There’s one thing seniors fear more than anything else: Loss of independence.
One study found that older Americans are more terrified of not being able to care for themselves than they are of death.1 And unless you live in a big city, the ability to drive can be vital for independent living. That’s why many seniors hang onto their license for as long as they possibly can.
New research points to a way to extend your years on the road.
Dr. Lesley A. Ross is an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State. She is co-author of the driving study. “Driving cessation has huge ramifications for seniors,” she noted. “It signals an end to freedom, acting as a concrete acknowledgement that you’re declining.”
Dr. Ross and her colleagues found that seniors who practice brain exercises are 50-70% more likely to be driving in 10 years’ time than those who don’t.2
But it has to the be the right kind of brain training.
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The researchers randomly assigned 2,000 people 65 or older to one of four groups. Three of the groups received some kind of brain training.
The first group had brain training in reasoning. This included brain teasers and problem-solving with pen and paper.
The second group had training in processing speed. They were given a short time to look at objects on a computer screen and then answer questions about what they had seen.
The third group had memory training. They had to recall a written grocery list or list of errands.
The fourth group received no training.3
The first three groups completed 10 hours of training. Researchers also randomly selected some participants to receive a further 10 hours of “booster” training.
The participants were evaluated seven times over the next 10 years. Here’s what researchers found:
- The reasoning group was 55% more likely than those getting no training to still be driving after 10 years.
- The processing speed group was 49% more likely to be driving.
- Surprisingly, the memory training group got no driving benefits. They were no more likely to be driving than the non-trained group.
- Subjects getting “booster” training were 70% more likely to still be on the road.
The researchers said they don’t know why memory training had no impact. The study was published in the journal Gerontology.4
How You Can Stay on the Road
There are easy ways you or a loved one can get the type of reasoning and processing braining training used in the study:
Do brain teasers. They come in many forms. You can often find brain teaser books at the grocery store checkout line. There are also websites that offer logic puzzles. One good site is Braingle.
Think fast. Build your processing speed by challenging yourself to learn fast. BrainCurls is a free website that has a variety of timed brain exercises.
Buy a brain training program. There are many good ones on the market. They include fit brains, Lumosity, and brainHQ. Focus on the exercises that strengthen reasoning and processing speed.
If you’re looking for other ways to stay independent, there’s something else you should know. The symptoms of aging can be treated or eliminated.
Go here to discover specific ways you can stop the clock.
In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch
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