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A Silver Lining to Self Isolation

May 11, 2020  · 2 min read

As frontline workers, essential workers and governments work tirelessly to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, the vast majority of people find themselves with one important task - to stay at home.

With malls, restaurants and theatres closed, people are turning to new hobbies to tackle the boredom of lockdown and social isolation.  While the monotony can be undoubtedly challenging for many, it has also provided a silver lining in an otherwise bleak time.  In a recent article entitled “Why those boredom-busting isolation hobbies might actually be boosting your brainpower”, author Francesca Wallace explores how the resurgence of retro activities and new hobbies may actually be encouraging the development of cognitive reserve.

Increases in the sale of puzzles, yarn and language learning software all indicate that people are finding new ways to keep busy and these new activities may be boosting their brain health!  Learning a new language, for example is particularly impactful, encouraging learners to “look for patterns, think critically and retrieve newly learned information from their memory.”

Furthermore, an article by Better Ageing entitled “Can Online Learning Help With Cognitive Improvement?” indicates that increases in online learning are not exclusive to language.  Many other online courses have seen a surge in registration and attendance, such as courses in Nutrition and Health, the Science of Wellbeing or the Science of Happiness. 

This is particularly encouraging as leading experts believe that engaging in learning can help the brain adapt and “compensate for age-related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain” and ultimately protect against cognitive decline in the future.

It is important to note that “humans are inherently social creatures” and therefore no amount of puzzles or knitting will make up for a lack of social engagement.  That being said, the new hobbies and skills that people are forging during this time may be tremendously useful to hang onto even after we can revisit our favourite restaurants, as those who learn new skills see higher increases in cognitive improvement than those who engage in exclusively social activities.

To learn more about brain health including how to foster cognitive reserve and prevent cognitive decline, contact IFA expert Dr Michael Valenzuela.  The IFA is also pleased to announce the upcoming launch of a consensus statement from the Copenhagen Summit on Cognitive Reserve, of which Dr Valenzuela is a lead author. Make sure to keep an eye on the IFA website and follow @IntFedAgeing on twitter where accessible links to the document will be provided!

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