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Brain Exercises Help Elderly Keep Driving Into Their 90s, Study Finds

OK, don't say it.

Who wants to argue with science, right? 

A decade ago, Penn State University researchers tested a sampling of 65+year-olds. Revisiting those subjects 10 years later, they found that the older adults who participated in so-called “brain training” ― exercises designed to improve cognitive ability ― were more likely to continue driving through their 80s than those who did not.

The ability to drive has huge ramifications for seniors. Losing it often results in an end to independent living.

Lesley A. Ross, Penn State assistant professor of human development and family studies, said in a press release that the study measured the effects of three cognitive training programs ― reasoning, memory and divided attention ― on driving cessation in older adults.

The participants who completed either the reasoning or divided-attention training were about 55 percent more likely to still be driving 10 years after the study began than those who did not receive training. Randomly selected participants who received additional divided-attention training were 70 percent more likely to report still driving after 10 years. The researchers reported their results in the current issue of The Gerontologist.

All of the 2,000 participants were drivers at the start of the program and were in good health. The participants were evaluated seven times over the course of 10 years. Participants were asked, among other things, to memorize their shopping lists and to look at images on a PC screen and try to remember them a few seconds later. A part of the sample did not participate in these exercises.  

Ross and colleagues plan to continue to study the effect of cognitive training, including the introduction of Xbox Kinect, a computer gaming platform, into future research. So just in case you were wondering what to get Grandma for the holidays ...

And in the meantime, we can just continue the argument over who are the worst drivers: teens or seniors?

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