Healthy Aging

Learning Tech Helps Your Brain

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month — an opportunity to hold a conversation about the brain, and share the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are a major public health issue. There may be no cure for Alzheimer’s but there is ample evidence that exercising—both the body and the brain—lowers your risk of getting it…and technology can play a role.

Many seniors are phobic about technology and convince themselves that doing things the old-fashioned way is just fine.  But the very thing that is so intimidating about technology—unfamiliarity–is the very thing that will prevent dementia–learning new skills in order to use it.

As this article explains, science has proved the relationship between memory and learning.   The Synapse Project studied the memory of participants who performed different tasks for three months.  At the end of three months, the people studied who did either digital photography or a combination of digital photography and quilting had the most beneficial results with cognition, especially memory function compared to study participants who just socialized, did crossword puzzles or listened to music.

“The researchers concluded that learning new, unfamiliar skills that required engagement of working memory, long-term memory and other high-level cognitive processes actually helped preserve memory.” Intriguingly, a subset of the original 221 people was tested again one year later and three years later, and the results were still positive.

That’s why its called a Smartphone! 

You may not realize it, but you probably already own an Alzheimer’s prevention machine–your smartphone.  And you don’t have to download games or apps, you just have to use it for the tasks of everyday life. The frequency of doing challenging tasks to build brainpower is an important part of the equation.  You can’t just learn something new every few weeks, you have to exercise your brain daily. Your smartphone and other smart appliances like Alexa provide ample opportunities.

Challenges to build brainpower:

  • Experiment with digital photography on your phone. Try different settings and filters.
  • Set up a website. Wix and Weebly have simple website apps that are free and optimized for non-techies to set up websites.
  • Get a digital watch and sync it with your phone. Experiment with different watch faces and other settings.
  • Learn a new language on your phone.  Try out the app com.
  • Make payments on your phone using different cash apps. Zelle is a real challenge.
  • Set up Alexa to do new things, like control your doorbell or lights.
  • Instead of calling a grandchild, call Google. Learn to follow the digital breadcrumbs to find your answer.
  • Learn from YouTube videos. Do you need to set up a new TV or other appliance?  Or fix something?  Chances are there’s a YouTube video explaining it.

Even if all the results aren’t in on the relationship between Alzheimer’s and learning, it’s common sense to exercise your brain as well as your body to stay healthy as you age. Want more ideas to keep your brain limber?  How about some…trivia?  Learn more here.

Want more ways to explore tech?  Check out the free online classes offered by Senior Planet.  Know a senior who’s not connected yet?  Tell them about the Aging Connected initiative




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