Saturday, June 17, 2017

Brain Games ~ The Facts

Hi Readers,

Puzzles and games do not make people smarter, maintain cognitive functioning, or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.  It is a myth perpetuated by companies trying to sell false hope and make money prying on vulnerable people.  Research trumps scare tactics.  See the facts below.  AgeDoc


Story Source:

Materials provided by Florida State University. Original written by Dave Heller. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Think brain games make you smarter? Think again, researchers say

New study finds no evidence games increase overall cognitive abilities


Date:            April 17, 2017

Source:         Florida State University


Summary:     Brain games marketed by the billion-dollar brain-training industry don't improve cognition or help prevent age-related brain decline, new research finds.

Be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain's performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry.

Science does not support many of the claims.

That's according to a new study published in the science journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience from a team of Florida State University researchers.

Neil Charness, professor of psychology and a leading authority on aging and cognition, teamed up with Wally Boot, associate professor of psychology, and graduate student Dustin Souders to test the theory that brain games help preserve cognitive function.

"Our findings and previous studies confirm there's very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way," said Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.

Charness, who's also the director of FSU's Institute for Successful Longevity, said an increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.

"Brain challenges like crossword games are a popular approach, especially among baby boomers, as a way to try to protect cognition," Charness said.

That popularity has turned the brain-training industry into a billion-dollar business. Brain games are available online and through mobile apps that typically sell for about $15 a month or $300 for lifetime memberships. But advertising for this rapidly growing business sector has sometimes used inflated claims. The Federal Trade Commission fined one brain-training company $50 million for false advertising, which was later lowered to $2 million.

"More companies are beginning to be fined for these types of inflated claims and that's a good thing," Boot said. "These exaggerated claims are not consistent with the conclusions of our latest study."

The FSU team's study focused on whether brain games could boost the "working memory" needed for a variety of tasks. In their study, they set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain-training video game called "Mind Frontiers," while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.

All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players' working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

That's the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.

The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: "far transfer."

In short, no.

"It's possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits," Charness said. "But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no."

Charness has spent much of his career the past 45 years trying to wrap his brain around the way the mind functions and how it ages. With the senior population continuing to grow -- 45 million Americans are 65 or older -- Charness understands their concerns about preserving brain function and remaining independent.

"People have real concerns about loss of cognition and loss of memory as they age, so they do all kinds of things to try to stave off cognitive decline," Charness said.

Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts "exer-gaming," which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.

"I wouldn't come away from our article totally discouraged," Charness said. "It's another piece of the puzzle that we're all trying to assemble. It's discouraging in the sense that we can't find far transfer and that seems to be a fairly consistent finding in research. But if your real goal is to improve cognitive function and brain games are not helping, then maybe you are better off getting aerobic exercise rather than sitting in front of the computer playing these games."


Florida State University. (2017, April 17). Think brain games make you smarter? Think again, researchers say: New study finds no evidence games increase overall cognitive abilities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2017 from



Thursday, June 15, 2017

June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 15

Today represents the one day of the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering of older adults.

Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.

Facts About Elder Abuse From The World Health Organization

· 1 in 6 older adults worldwide have been abused in the past year.

· As many as 2 out of 3 people with dementia have been abused.

· Victims of elder abuse were twice as likely to die compared to older people who did not report abuse.

· The United States spends $5.3 billion each year in medical costs from violent injuries to older people.

Click here to view the complete Elder Abuse pamphlet from the World Health Organization:


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Caregiving Resource ~ Dr. Warren Hebert

Hi readers, today I had the pleasure of meeting caregiving expert Dr. Warren Hebert.  Hebert, who is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Loyola University New Orleans, is a compassionate and knowledgeable authority on caregiving.  From our conversation, I was impressed with his passion and understanding of the challenges faced by caregivers.  We also discussed caregiving attitudes and expectations cross-culturally and how caregiving is approached in various global cultures and within ethnic groups in America.  We also talked about caregiver burnout and exhaustion.  Of course, we also examined the benefits, advantages, and joys of caring for loved ones. 
With a focus on general audiences, Dr. Hebert's radio program is a must for caregivers, scholars, clergy, counselors, and anyone interested in how families care for loved ones when they need help.  Below is the link to his radio show at Radio Maria.  It is live every Wednesday from 4-5 pm Central Time.  Not available at that time?  No problem.  By clicking this link, achieves of past shows are also available. I believe anyone interested in caregiving will benefit from Dr. Hebert’s pearls of wisdom.  I hope you find this resource valuable!  AgeDoc

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Updated BEERS List

Hi readers, a serious issue is overmedication of older adults and/or taking medications that cannot be adequately metabolized by the older body.  Never assume that medical professionals know appropriate dosage or if the prescribed medication is appropriate for you.  Be proactive and ASK, “Is this aligned with the Beers list?”  Some medications on this list are over-the-counter medications, so pay attention to what you take and how much.  Below is a blurb about the Beers list and I have also attached the link for the updated list here.

What is the Beers List and Why Do I Need it?
“For more than 20 years, the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults has been the leading source of information about the safety of prescribing drugs for older people. To help prevent medication side effects and other drug-related problems in older adults, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) has updated and expanded this important resource. The expanded AGS Updated Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults identifies medications with risks that may be greater than their benefits for people 65 and older. “
Why Experts Developed the Beers Criteria

“As you get older, your body changes. These changes can increase the chances that you’ll have side effects when you take medications. Older people usually have more health problems and take more medications than younger people. Because of this, they are also more likely to experience dangerous drug-drug interactions. Every year, one in three adults 65 or older has one or more adverse (harmful) reactions to a medication or medications. This is why it’s important for researchers to identify and help reduce use of drugs that are associated with more risks than benefits in older people. The Beers Criteria was last updated in 2003. The criteria need to be updated regularly because new drugs continue to be marketed and new studies continue to provide information on the safety of existing medications. In 2011, the criteria was updated by the American Geriatrics Society using a panel of healthcare and pharmacy experts. The AGS will continue to update the criteria on a regular basis.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Successful Aging

What is “successful aging?”  It depends.  Scientists and scholars have been actively and robustly addressing this topic for over fifty years.  Recently, Dr. Leonard Poon’s distinguished multi-disciplinary team carefully reviewed the literature and conceded that we cannot agree on what it means to age “successfully,” as that is a relative term with cultural, religious, psychological, and biological factors to consider.   

While most of the earlier studies focused on identifying successful aging as maintaining optimum health and avoiding disease, more contemporary models have emerged.  For example, the MacArthur study defined optimum or positive aging as “freedom from disease and disability, high cognitive and physical functioning, and active engagement with life” (Martin et al.,  2015, p. 18).  Does the absence of these three criteria equate to unsuccessful or negative/undesirable aging?  Are older adults able to age successfully in spite of health declines?  The Poon study (Martin et al., 2015) is worth reviewing, as it is a comprehensive literature review that answers many questions but leaves us wanting more.  

Principle investigator of the Harvard Grant Study on Aging, George Valiant, identified a formula for successful aging from his longitudinal research that began in 1937 and is still in progress.   Maintaining strong social networks was an important finding in the Grant study, as lonely and toxic individuals have destructive relationships that negatively impact aging. Valiant identified the two groups of agers as, the Happy Healthy and the Sad Sick.  While absence of chronic diseases is important for optimum longevity, Valiant found that chronic conditions can be mitigated by adapting and maximizing strengths (Valiant, 2015).  

His findings included five elements for successful aging include; maintaining a healthy weight over the lifespan, low alcohol intake, regular mental and physical exercise, engaging in hobbies, and maintaining close relationships.  Having good people around you is key (Valiant, 2015). 
The two sources below are outstanding resources for learning more about successful aging.  

Martin, P., Kelly, N., Kahana, B., Kahana, E., Willcox, B.J., Willcox, D.C., & Poon, L.W. (2015).  Defining successful aging: a tangible or elusive concept?  The  Gerontologist, 55(1), 14-25.  doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu044

Valliant, G.E. (2015). Triumphs of experience: the men of the Harvard Grant Study.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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