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Rise and Shine, Yes Older Adults Do!

By Staff | Apr 10, 2015

Image by photovoir via Yay.com

A recent study showed that people from the age of 60-82 perform better in the morning than they do at other times of the day. Who would have thought that after so many years of cursing the alarm clock as it rattles off the nightstand that older adults do their best work in the morning. Or, at least when it comes to completing challenging tasks and performing at optimal levels, as shared by lead author John Anderson, a doctoral candidate with the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences and the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology. Mr. Anderson went on to say “Time of day really does matter when testing older adults. This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon. Their improved cognitive performance in the morning correlated with greater activation of the brain’s attention control regions … similar to that of younger adults.” Plus older adults have life experiences that allow them to better use their increased cognitive performance to greater ends than their younger counterparts, ages 19-30 who were also tested for comparison.

The test performed was with young adults aged 19-30 and their older counterparts aged 60-82 to see how memory works, and when. The memory test(s) was done two times a day, and involved comprehension of pictures and word combinations in conjunction with displaying distractions on the computer screen. MRI tests were used at the same time to see what parts of the brain were active and to see if they correlate with the other results.

The researchers eureka moment came when they discovered that during the afternoon, older adults were ten percent more likely to be distracted by the extra screen information and weren’t completely engaged on the cognitive tasks. Researchers called it “idling,” when the senior brains went into resting mode and weren’t completely focused.

In contrast the morning test revealed that the older adults being tested were more focused and able to ignore the extra screen information that in the afternoon they were distracted by. The research results showed that the older adults were equal with their younger counterparts including focusing on cognitive tasks. These results also concurred with the MRIs taken at the time of the test. “Our research is consistent with previous science reports showing that at a time of day that matches circadian arousal patterns, older adults are able to resist distraction,” said Lynn Hasher, senior author of the paper and a leading authority in attention and inhibitory functioning in older adults.

So to get the most out an activity for older adults it is best to take on the task at hand in the morning. Tasks like reading a book, writing, computer activities, planning for the day, exercise, business or life decisions, reading the Pierce County Tribune, and even cuddling with a loved one; basically any activity that you need optimal concentration to perform at your best. So to all of our older adults, do it when you rise so you can shine!

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