“Senior moments”, as popularly described by many elderly, and as “cognitive decline” by the medical and mental health community, may be much more preventable than many realize. Two surveys conducted in 1993 and 2002 “support the idea that more education is protective against cognitive decline” according to Dr. Kenneth M. Langa, as reported to Reuters health.
In this important “senior moment” research, Dr. Langa of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, found that between the 1993 and 2002 surveys there was a nearly 30% decline in cognitive impairment while the average education level rose by 1 year between the studies conducted approximately a decade apart.
Researchers considered demographic, lifestyle and medical information as well as various cognitive measures such as knowledge, language, orientation, mental processing, and memory among participants in the Health and Retirement Study which had 7406 participants in the 1983 study and 7104 in the 2002 survey. Dr. Langa reported in the journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia that the average age of the two groups was 78 years old, was primarily white, 40% male, and about half were living with their spouse.
“Senior moments” research results:
Researchers found that approximately 12.2% of the participants had cognitive impairment in 1993. By 2002, the rates of these “senior moments” or cognitive decline, slipped to a rate of 8.7%. Interestingly enough, the 2002 respondents also reported significantly greater net worth than the 1993 respondents, in addition to achieving more education. Dr. Langa stated in an interview with Reuter’s Health, that “higher levels of wealth likely lead to more or better educational opportunities and better access to health care.”
Investigators also found that among individuals who had moderate to severe cognitive impairment, there was also a higher mortality rate among individuals in the 2002 study. The implication may be that while education may be protective, when it occurs the cognitive decline may be more severe and carry a greater risk of death.
The conclusion reached by some experts as a result of this research is that improvements in education and mental stimulation during leisure and work activities may have an impact upon individual’s health, possibly reducing the incidence and severity of these “senior moments”. Obviously, research will need to continue in order to come to more conclusive analysis about the impact of mental stimulation on cognitive impairment or what many famously refer to as “senior moments”.
Information adapted from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, online February 20, 2008
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist