In a study that earned a silver 2019 Mather LifeWays Innovative Research on Aging award, researchers explored how independent and assisted living residents can benefit from computerized speed of processing training.
Researchers recruited 165 assisted living and 186 independent living residents, with an average age of 81, from 31 senior living communities. Study participants were assigned to one of two groups. One group performed computerized speed of processing training, in which participants needed to quickly identify an image presented among other distractor images. As participants got better at this task, the difficulty increased. In the other “attention control” group, participants could choose from a variety of crossword puzzles to complete in their own time.
Both groups completed ten hours of training over the first six weeks of the study, then an additional four hours in month 5 and four hours in month 11. After each training interval, participants in both groups were tested for their useful field of view, which measures one’s speed and accuracy in identifying objects in their periphery. Improvements in this measure can translate to everyday tasks, such as stopping a car sooner.
Compared to the control group, the speed of processing group showed significantly better improvements in useful field of view scores for all three testing periods. Additionally, improvements that were large enough to be clinically meaningful were 10% more common after six weeks for speed of processing participants and 15% more common after twelve months.
As might be expected, independent living residents showed greater improvements in useful field of view than assisted living residents, but this only occurred at six weeks and six months, and there were no differences in rate of clinically meaningful improvements. Age, gender, and education had no impact on the results.
To summarize, speed of processing training was effective in enhancing useful field of view, and in many cases these improvements were clinically meaningful. This study provides further support that computerized cognitive training has the potential to slow cognitive decline, even for older adults in independent and assisted living.
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Smith M, Jones MP, Dotson MM, and Wolinsky FD. Speed-of-processing training in assisted and independent living: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2018); 66(8): 1538–1545.