Elderly cat owner? Improve your cat caregiving by reading a good newspaper!

Reading a high-quality newspaper can give you the thinking skills of someone 13 years younger suggests a new study. Personally, I would also suggest that it must be a good quality one which challenges the brain a little bit because that’s the purpose in this instance; to improve the cognitive skills of an elderly person and stave off that dreaded and gradual decline in old age. And where there is a more active and more alert brain there is going to be a person who is more able to take care of their cat to a higher standard for longer. That is the argument I am proposing today in focusing on the human side of the human-to-cat partnershi with the objective of improving cat care.

Keep reading to keep up cognitive skills in old age
Keep reading to keep up cognitive skills in old age. Image: MikeB.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Research published in the journal Neurology investigated whether the “cognitive reserves” of people – and I expect that they are referring to elderly people – could be enhanced through physical and mental activities.

People with greater cognitive reserves on which to draw are better thinkers “than might be expected based upon changes in their brain as it ages” according to Kat Lay, The Times Health Editor. So, this is about minimising the natural decline in cognitive abilities of elderly people and putting off dementia. We know that many elderly people feel that they have to rehome their cat because they are no longer able to provide the proper care required. There does come a time when that happens and you can read about it often in online news media.

The researchers from the University of California, USA, found that taking part in mental activities boosted the thinking speed reserves in both men and women. And it isn’t just reading a good quality newspaper which I think should challenge the mind, it might be reading magazines, books, going to classes, playing cards or other games and even bingo.

Overall, they found that for each additional category of mental activity they calculated that the participant’s thinking speed improved by the equivalent of 13 fewer years of age. They found the benefits were better for men than for women. Perhaps this is because men age faster than women anyway because they die younger in general.

The lead author, Dr. Judy Pa said that as there were no treatments for Alzheimer’s it was pleasing to find that everyday activities that anybody could take up appeared to boost cognitive reserves.

As for physical activity, it was found that it is linked to greater reserves of thinking speed in women but not in men.

There were 758 participants in the study with an average age of 76. Some participants had no memory problems while some had dementia and others had mild cognitive impairment.

They could not prove cause and effect because the study was observational and they were unable to take into account wider factors which might affect a person’s thinking abilities such as their education.

Dr. Sarah Imarisio of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “This study has limitations including the fact volunteers self-reported how much physical and cognitive stimulation they had. The best current evidence suggests that both men and women can support a healthy brain by not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, drinking within the recommended guidelines, eating a balanced diet and keeping socially connected.”

They seem to be against the findings of the study. Although, from my perspective, the study results are really common sense. If you keep your brain active and challenged as we are required to do with respect to the body, it is going to be beneficial. The human body – both mind and the physical aspects of it – need to be worked to be functioning properly.

Some time ago I read that if you sit in a chair for a long time such as hours on end it can cause all kinds of damage to your body and even shorten your lifespan. It’s the same picture: inactivity is unhealthy. And this study applies to the mind and how it needs to be kept elastic and working.

In the US, The New York Times and The Washington Post are said to be high quality newspapers. In the UK, The Times is the newspaper of my choice. I think elderly people with time on their hands should read it from cover to cover for about 90 minutes and read five articles thoroughly and perhaps skim the rest.

Below are some more articles on human behavior.

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