Lively discussion‘Pick an argument –or read out loud’ said the headline, with a story that suggests that having a vigorous discussion or reading out loud to another person can help ward off dementia.  The assertion comes from brain-training specialists, Terry Horne and Simon Wootton authors of Build Your Brain Power.  They worked with neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield on the theory that forcing your brain to work harder increases its cognitive capacity and improves your memory.

It seems that screen based activities do not have as powerful an effect as thinking aloud – especially with another person.  Dialogue with another person makes many different parts of your brain interact, increasing your cognitive capacity.   Listening and talking means processing new information, matching it with what you already know, and  mixing it up in an analytical way.  A sort of cross hatching across the brain.

Reading is good, too.  This also protects against dementia because it forces your brain to map, connect and cross-check information and then integrate it with information already in your memory,’ said Simon Wootton.  ‘Reading out loud to one another magnifies this brain benefit, and discussing what you are reading spreads the neural load wider still.’

Another way of preventing dementia is by maintaining good blood flow to the brain.  At the PFS Conference in Cambridge last Saturday we heard how simple, quite easy exercises, built into part of your everyday life, can make a huge difference to your health.

Things like standing up from a sitting position and sitting down again slowly for five times, three times a day can help keep you mobile and maintain your dignity in old age.  Physiotherapist Margaret Coles said that many older people in care homes need help getting to and from the toilet as they aren’t able to get up from a sitting position on their own. Doing the exercise regularly just three times a day, every day, builds up muscle strength.

Margaret is a chartered physiotherapist who is passionate about keeping older folk mobile, helping them keep in touch with their communities and out of hospital.  She’s currently studying for an MSc in Public Health to further independent living in the community, as well as running an exercise group in Waterbeach, Cambridge.  There’s much useful information, together with instruction videos, on her website [email protected].


Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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