It’s always good to practice skills to boost memory, especially as a person ages. But recent research shows that one memory trick might be more helpful — and it’s actually pretty darn fun, too.
A December 2018 study published in Experimental Aging and Research found that older adults who draw as a hobby could enhance their memory, even if they’re not particularly artistic. In a series of experiments, researchers asked young adults and older folks to try a variety of techniques to improve memory, including drawing, re-writing notes, doing visualization exercises, and studying images. As it turned out, there was a clear winner for which method helped the older people the most with memory retention.
“We found that drawing enhanced memory in older adults more than other known study techniques,” said Melissa Meade, a PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, in a press release. “We’re really encouraged by these results and are looking into ways that it can be used to help people with dementia, who experience rapid declines in memory and language function.”
Although drawing was a better memory enhancer than writing for the younger participants as well, the effect was especially significant for the senior citizens who participated.
Researchers think that the reason why drawing helped the older participants so much is because it involves multiple forms of representing information, including visual, spatial, and motoric ways.
“We think that drawing is particularly relevant for people with dementia because it makes better use of brain regions that are still preserved, and could help people experiencing cognitive impairment with memory function,” said Meade. “Our findings have exciting implications for therapeutic interventions to help dementia patients hold on to valuable episodic memories throughout the progression of their disease.”
So if you have a loved one who’s getting older and struggling with memory, it can’t hurt to suggest taking up drawing together as a fun hobby. There’s nothing like lending a helping hand — especially when it leads to you creating some beautiful art with them.