Hobbies Help Maintain Memory in Old AgeWhat you do in your spare time can help protect you from the effects of aging. A study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota finds that people who engage in arts and crafts, socialize, and use computers in middle and old age are less likely to develop memory problems and other cognitive impairments in old age. Adults aged 85 and over are the fastest growing demographic in the United States. This study is important because it offers a way for the growing population of older adults to maintain their quality of life and limit the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The researchers surveyed 265 adults with an average age of 87. All of the participants were free of memory and cognitive impairments at the outset of the study. The researchers asked the participants to report on their involvement in activities related to arts, crafts, social life, and computer use. The participants reported engaging in painting, woodworking, socializing with friends, using the internet, and more.

After an average of four years, 121 of the participants developed MCI. The participants who engaged in activities had a reduced risk of developing MCI. Adults who in middle and old age:

  • Participated in arts were 73 percent less likely to develop MCI.
  • Participated in crafts were 45 less likely to develop MCI.
  • Participated in social activities were 55 percent less likely to develop MCI.
  • Participated in computer activities were 53 percent less likely to develop MCI.

Factors like high blood pressure, certain genetic profiles, and depression were related to an increased risk of MCI.

Study author Rosebud Roberts, MB, ChB, MS, states that, “Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age.”

This research is published in the journal Neurology.

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