Insights into the aging brain

Mental, social engagement seem key to staving off dementia

Fewer than one in 200 people will live past 90 without a trace of dementia, yet these people are helping researchers understand how mental lucidity can be preserved late in life, the New York Times reports. At Laguna Woods, a retirement community of 20,000 seniors outside L.A., scientists have been studying health and mental wellbeing in the elderly since 1981. The 90+ Study, as it’s called, has included more than 14,000 people aged 65 and older. People who spend three hours or more on mental activities like cards or crosswords seem to be at lower risk of developing dementia, while diet and exercise so far seem to have little effect. Social engagement also seems to be important. “There is quite a bit of evidence now suggesting that the more people you have contact with, in your own home or outside, the better you do” mentally and physically, says Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine. “Interacting with people regularly, even strangers, uses easily as much brain power as doing puzzles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is what it’s all about.”

The New York Times

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