Many elderly people continue to enjoy a variety of leisure activities as they age, from playing board games to taking long walks outside. Leisure activities offer a chance to socialize, exercise, and learn new games and hobbies.
A recent study has shown that these types of activities may offer more than daily enjoyment.
To determine the link between Alzheimer's disease/dementia and leisure activities, the authors of the study, published in the journal Neurology, examined almost 2,000 people (65 years or older), all residing in northern Manhattan, New York. Baseline mental health on neurologic examinations and leisure-activity participation were assessed; the seniors were followed for seven years to determine the onset of Alzheimer's disease or other mental deficiencies. Thirteen leisure activities were considered, including hobbies (e.g., stamp collecting); walking; visiting friends or relatives; reading; going to entertainment events; and playing games.
Risk for Alzheimer's or other dementias was decreased by about 40% in those with high leisure-activity levels compared to those with low activity levels. Also, Caucasians were 50% less likely than African-Americans to develop dementia.
Continual learning and mental stimulation, as well as physical activity and social interaction, help prevent deterioration of the brain. Besides being fun, they can help prevent a variety of mental and physical ailments.
Scarmeas N, Levy G, Tang MX, et al. Influence of leisure activity on the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Neurology 2001:57, pp. 2236-2242.
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