Recent evidence shows that engaging in learning new skills improves episodic memory in older adults. In this study, older adults who were computer novices were trained to use a tablet computer and associated software applications. We hypothesize that sustained engagement in this mentally challenging training would yield a dual benefit of improved cognition and enhancement of everyday function by introducing useful skills.
A total of 54 older adults (age 60-90) committed 15 hr/week for 3 months. Eighteen participants received extensive iPad training, learning a broad range of practical applications. The iPad group was compared with 2 separate controls: a Placebo group that engaged in passive tasks requiring little new learning; and a Social group that had regular social interaction, but no active skill acquisition. All participants completed the same cognitive battery pre- and post-engagement.
Compared with both controls, the iPad group showed greater improvements in episodic memory and processing speed but did not differ in mental control or visuospatial processing.
iPad training improved cognition relative to engaging in social or nonchallenging activities. Mastering relevant technological devices have the added advantage of providing older adults with technological skills useful in facilitating everyday activities (e.g., banking). This work informs the selection of targeted activities for future interventions and community programs.