How do our thinking skills change as we age? Do our lifestyles affect those changes?
Cognitive decline (changes in our thinking, reasoning and memory skills) is one of the most feared aspects of ageing, and is a major determinant of health, independence and quality of life. While cognitive abilities show characteristic age-related changes, there is considerable interindividual variation. Modifiable determinants of cognitive ageing are therefore being sought to inform the development of interventions to reduce, delay, halt or even reverse cognitive ageing.
Remaining cognitively, socially and physically active is recommended for the maintenance of cognitive abilities. Intervention studies based on cognitive training, however, have generally failed to show broad, transferrable benefits, albeit individuals show improvement on the specific task trained. More complex interventions have begun to produce promising results. The focus of The Ageing Lab is therefore to develop and test broad-based, lifestyle interventions. Developing lifestyle interventions for healthy ageing is an important area of research and has applied value in an increasingly aged society.
Our principal research programme is the Intervention Factory which commenced in July 2016. Keep updated on our progress by following us on Twitter.
The first phase of the project is "What Keeps You Sharp?", a survey of people's beliefs about how thinking skills change with age and the factors that might affect those changes.
The "Tablet for Healthy Ageing" project was a supported intervention programme utilising tablet computers (often simply referred to as tablets). It represented our first project exploring the opportunities for new technology to deliver, monitor and personalise interventions with older adults.
Tablet computers offer a method of delivering varied, multimodal interventions to older adults beyond repetitive cognitive training regimes. As these technologies present inherent challenges, any intervention needs to be appropriately designed and adequately supported. Our initial research goals therefore focussed on testing the acceptability and usability of tablets as tools to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults.
The first phase of the project developed and refined intervention protocols via user and expert-engagement. This established older adults' familiarity with tablets and similar devices, their exposure to them and perceived and actual barriers to participation.
The finalised intervention protocol was then tested with older adults. The research questions focussed on how the tablet training intervention affected the health and wellbeing of those completing the intervention programme versus those not.
The Tablet for Healthy Ageing project has been completed and you can see the outputs on the Publications page. Further developments are planned within the "Tablet for Healthy Ageing" research programme.