Can taking up new activities improve the health and wellbeing of older people?
As we age, we are more likely to experience changes in our thinking and memory skills (these are referred to as our mental or cognitive abilities). Some individuals experience declines in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain their abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline. Keeping engaged in intellectual, social or physical activities have all been proposed as potentially beneficial.
These activities have been incorporated in interventions with the purpose of reducing or delaying age-related mental decline. Studies with “brain training”-type games have shown some benefits, although often only for the task trained. Other approaches have used more lifestyle-based interventions, where older people are given the opportunity to engage in different activities.
Our research at The Ageing Lab is particularly focussed on how interventions that encourage older people to become more active or learn new things might improve their health and wellbeing, and specifically reduce or delay age-related mental decline.
Our principal research project is The Intervention Factory which considers a range of community-based activities as potential interventions for cognitive ageing. New technologies also provide opportunities for broader, more flexible interventions. A Tablet for Healthy Ageing was a supported intervention programme utilising tablet computers with older people.
You can read more about our current research here.
The Ageing Lab is within the Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, at Heriot-Watt University. Research in Psychology is grouped by three main themes: Cognition, Brain and Behaviour; Lifespan Health and Wellbeing; and Work, Society and Environment.
Find out more about the research in the Department of Psychology at www.psych.hw.ac.uk or follow updates on Twitter @HWPsych.