Have you learned a new skill lately? A new study reveals that learning a new skill can actually increase episodic memory as well as cognitive processing speed. Hopefully, the study will encourage caregivers and seniors to become involved in community classes that spark creativity.
A recent study published by Psychological Science has shown that, according to initial findings, seniors can increase cognitive ability by learning a new skill, such as digital photography or quilting. The study occurred over 14 weeks and included over 200 seniors doing a variety of activities. While further studies need to be done, this particular study shows us that seniors can learn new skills and increase memory and cognitive ability while learning that skill.
The study included over 200 participants with an average age of 72. Over the course of 14 weeks, the participants were divided into six, fairly small groups. The groups were divided into the following:
- Learning digital photography
- Learning quilting
- Learning digital photography and quilting
- Participating in social activities
- Playing games, puzzles, and watching documentaries
- Recording usual activities with no change (control group)
The Best Skills to Boost Your Brain
At the end of 14 weeks, researchers evaluated the cognitive skills of each group and found that those who were in the digital photography class showed more improvement in episodic memory capacity than the placebo condition. Those that participated in quilting and the digital photography lessons showed more improvement in cognitive processing speed. Learning a new skill (ie. quilting or photography) that required creativity as well as hands on participation showed marked cognitive improvement.
While the results did show an improvement among those whose groups required creativity and a higher cognitive demand, there are some limitation to the study. The groups were fairly small which makes it hard to conclude the study can be generalized. In addition, the tests were performed soon after the activities were completed. Further testing will need to be done to see if the activity had a lasting cognitive effect.
What This Means for Your Brain Health
Regardless of these limitations, the study shows that cognitive capacity can be improved in seniors. The seniors who actively acquired a new skill improved cognitive function. This can help seniors remain engaged in their communities through classes and creative workshops that will decrease isolation as well as increase brain power.
What new skill is your loved one learning that is enhancing their brain power?