Older people who do household chores do better on memory and attention tests, study finds

·1-min read

Doing household chores like window cleaning, vacuuming, and washing or scrubbing the floor may help improve the memory and attention span of older people.

A new study examined data on almost 500 pensioners and younger adults aged between 21 and 90.

It found that elderly people who participate in a combination of light housework and more physically demanding chores appear to have "higher cognitive function".

Researchers examined walking speed and sit-to-stand speed from a chair - which is indicative of leg strength and falls risk - to assess the participants' levels of physical activity.

Their mental agility was also assessed with tests designed to examine memory, language and attention span.

Participants were quizzed about the intensity and frequency of household chores as well as other types of physical activity.

Only around a third (36%) of those in the younger group and just under half (48%) of those in the older age group - aged 65 and over - met recommended physical activity levels from recreational activities alone.

But around two thirds - 61% of adults aged 64 and younger and 66% of older adults - met the targets exclusively through housework.

More specifically, older adults who participated in more heavy housework had 14% higher attention span scores.

And those who regularly performed light house work tested better on memory tests.

Published in the journal BMJ Open, the authors said "our study suggests that a combination of light and heavy housework is associated with higher cognitive function".

"Furthermore, the positive associations of housework levels with physical and sensorimotor functions in older adults were intensity dependent."

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