Doing puzzles can benefit older people

Puzzles and crafts can bring more benefits for older people than many may first realise. This is the suggestion of new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine, which noted cognitive training can boost memory and improve reasoning.

It had previously been demonstrated that such tasks can slow down and even reduce the risk of the onset of dementia, but the new findings point to additional advantages that include better control over hand-eye coordination and bolstered language skills.

Leaders of the investigation Professor Chumbo Li and Wenyuan Wu carried out training sessions to measure cognitive approaches as a defence tool against any mental decline that older adults - who are otherwise healthy - may experience.

These sessions included a system that focussed on reasoning, memory, problem-solving, map reading and exercise.

Professors Li and Wu authors noted the results were positive when compared to control groups that received no such assistance.

"The more detailed training also improved memory, even when measured a year later and booster training had an additional improvement on mental ability scores," they added.

Dr Steve Boddington, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "This study adds to a growing literature regarding the importance of cognitive stimulation in optimising cognitive functioning in later life which generally shows that specific cognitive exercises improve performance in the cognitive processes related to that exercise; the so-called 'practice effect'.

"However, this finding is not specific to studies of people in later life and claims that such interventions may slow down/reduce the risk of dementia are highly contentious given the underlying biological bases for most forms of dementia.

"Current advice emphasises the importance of healthy living (diet/exercise/avoiding brain injury/managing blood pressure/etc) as important strategies for reducing the risk of dementia.

"However, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence Dementia Guidelines also promote cognitive stimulation as part of a range of interventions that should be made available to people with a diagnosis of dementia as a means of optimising cognitive ability as well as improved quality of life."