Computers & Phones Keep You Alert as You Age

by on September 4, 2015

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Modern technology is helping to keep our brains sharp as we age.

Experts had previously been concerned that increasing reliance on computers and phones would damage our brains. But, in fact, the opposite is happening. The fact is that mental agility required to get the most out of modern technology is increasing the capacity of our brains.

There are even indications that the older cohort in the population are learning more than the younger cohort. For example, a recent UK study showed that over 70% of over-55’s were familiar with terms such as “root”, “cursor”, and “Wi-Fi”, whereas only 60% of 16 to 24-year-olds were.

Remembering Passwords

It is said that the average person needs to remember ten passwords a day – which obviously takes some mental gymnastics.

At least that’s better than using the same password for everything – which means that if a hacker finds out your single password they’ve got an “open sesame” to all your accounts everywhere.

(Quick aside: Personally, I use a password manager so I can have a different password for everything. I couldn’t possibly remember them all. I use Roboform which lets me fill in my password on any site in one or two clicks. It remembers every password I’ve had over the past ten years or so. It also remembers my name and address details and fills these in with one click on any new shopping site I want to register on. It’s not expensive, and it’s even free if you only want to save ten passwords.)

Our Brains are 8 Years Younger

One study of over-50s found that their mental agility was equivalent to people eight years younger who were tested six years ago.

Certainly, at 90 years old, my dad is fantastic on his computer. He is on it every night emailing the family and hunting out rare tracks he wants to listen to on YouTube. In fact, we all just clubbed together to buy a new computer that was a bit faster. (And he loves Roboform, by the way!)

The “Flynn Effect”

James Flynn did much to show that IQ tends to increase over time. This can be demonstrated by getting people to repeat an IQ test that they took five, ten or even twenty years ago.

Flynn said that the reasons for these improvements included familiarity with the test, a more stimulating environment (which has occurred over time – e.g. many more posters and adverts on walls, etc), better nutrition and a reduction in infectious diseases.

The improvement in IQ can be demonstrated in every age range at every ability level in every modern country. However, the Flynn effect does not account for the rapid increase in mental agility shown by over-55’s in the past decade or so.

Will Diet Affect IQ?

It’s interesting to question whether our deteriorating diet is going to have a contrary effect on IQ.

It’s been demonstrated that following the Second World War the IQ of the population rose significantly – because of improving nutrition. This was especially the reduction of rich and sugary meals.

Now the opposite is happening and obesity is rapidly on the rise we can wonder as to the effect of this on brain development and IQ.

Roll On Technology

In the meantime, we can stop worrying about technology making is more stupid – it appears to be making us brighter. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should glue a mobile phone to our ears for hour after hour. That’s not recommended.

But fully embracing the technical environment is only going to improve our physical as well as our mental dexterity. And both of these are going to lead to healthier aging and may even reduce the chance of dementia.

You can further boost your mental agility by practicing the exercises I talked about in this article which mentions the mental exercise site Lumosity.  The exercises on this site are really great and some of them are even quite addictive (especially the train one 😉 ).

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