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Keywords:

  • brain training;
  • dementia prevention;
  • ageing

Objective

The paper aims to construct a baseline of knowledge about current activities, attitudes and motivations of a sample of people aged 50–65 years in relation to ‘keeping one's brain active’, with a particular focus on activities suggested in the literature and in popular parlance to have positive effects.

Methods

An online survey of people aged 50–65 years concerning their activities and motivations in relation to ‘keeping one's brain active’ was conducted with a sample of people employed in Scotland and in two online discussion forums. The survey ascertained respondents' background demographic data, data on health and lifestyle factors, activities they engaged in and reasons for engagement, including any concerns about dementia and experience of dementia. The achieved sample of 402 responses was representative of the general population on most counts, although the sample included more better-educated people and more smokers.

Results

Dementia prevention was a motivating factor for 21% of the respondents. More women and more of those living alone reported this motivation. It was linked with experience of dementia and future fears of developing the condition. New ‘brain-training’ technologies were used by younger people in higher socio-economic groups, and dementia prevention was cited as a motivation.

Conclusion

The findings indicate that dementia prevention motivates activities perceived to keep the brain active, despite there being a virtual absence of scientific evidence showing that the desired effects will follow. Given the existence of evidence suggesting that other activities, particularly physical exercise, may be more important and the possibility that stress itself may promote the development of dementia, further research is urgently needed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.