Mental Exercise Wards off Dementia (December 22, 2004)
Recently, an increasing number of local governments and private-sector organizations
have taken measures to encourage mental exercise as a means of preventing the
onset of dementia. The activities range from mathematical drills to the use of
personal computers to recalling old memories, and some local governments are conducting
studies to verify their effectiveness. Along with fractures and strokes, dementia
is one of the leading reasons for people to need nursing care. The number of elderly
Japanese suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is expected to
grow from the present level of 1.5 million to a total of 2.5 million by 2015.
Recognizing the need to take urgent action, local governments are putting their
efforts into activities designed to prevent these disorders in seniors.
|The best-selling Drills for Adults to Train Their Brains (Kumon Publishing Co., Ltd.)
Mathematics, Computers, and Memories
Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward began a program for seniors called the "Active Brain
Wellness Classroom" in July. The purpose of this once-a-week course is to
have people aged 70 and over practice reading, writing, and simple calculations
under the tutelage of instructors. While 30 participants were sought, nearly 80
applied, and slots had to be awarded by drawing lots. The contents of the course
are based on the research of Kawashima Ryuta, a professor of neuroscience at Tohoku
University. Participants conduct simple mathematical calculations and read aloud
passages from novels - activities that stimulate their frontal cortex and can
Professor Kawashima has conducted research at such places as a special-care
nursing home in Fukuoka Prefecture. His studies show that elderly people suffering
from dementia who stick with a program of simple math and reading passages aloud
show improved communicative abilities and increased levels of independence with
regard to such activities as going to the toilet. This is known as Learning Therapy.
(Learning Therapy is a registered trademark of Professor Kawashima Ryuta and the
Kumon Institute of Education.) The results of his work spread by word of mouth
and through mentions in magazine articles, and when the two volumes of his book
No o Kitaeru Otona no Doriru (Drills for Adults to
Train Their Brains), published by Kumon Publishing Co., Ltd., went on sale at
the end of 2003 (one volume deals with mathematical drills, while the other is
focused on reading aloud), they became bestsellers, registering combined sales
of more than 2 million copies. These books are for healthy middle-aged and elderly
people to train their brains.
|(Kumon Publishing Co., Ltd.)
A citizens' group in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, meanwhile, is offering over 10 different
courses that are said to be effective in keeping the brain sharp, including classes
on computers, gardening, and cooking. These courses appeal to the elderly by helping
them to prevent the onset of dementia while doing something they enjoy. Most of
the over 100 participants are seniors, and the cost of the activities is covered
with membership fees and assistance from the ward office. Participants who took
part in the "Dementia-Prevention Model Classroom" begun by Toshima Ward
and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology in 2000 are continuing their
activities, this time as instructors.
Aichi Prefecture's Anjo City, meanwhile, began a "Fond Memory Recall Classroom"
in August. The goal is to have participants undergo mental stimulation by recalling
long-ago memories of school, enjoyable experiences, and household chores. The
city has seen an increase of more than 1,000 people needing special nursing care
over the past four years, so the hope is that the program will play a role in
delaying even slightly the onset of dementia in residents.
This year Tokyo's Musashino City began a major six-year effort to determine the
efficacy of dementia prevention. The goal is to visit and interview all 10,000
of the city's residents in their seventies and make a record of their health and
lifestyle practices. Of those surveyed, several hundred will be asked to participate
in a dementia-prevention group, which will be compared with a control group composed
of elderly who do not take part in such activities. The purpose is to compare
the effectiveness of dementia prevention by comparing the rates of occurrence
within the two groups. An estimate will be made of the possible savings in nursing
care. Using data from the model case in Toshima Ward, Musashino officials estimate
that if the onset of dementia is delayed by two years, a reduction in medical
and nursing expenses of ¥5 million ($45,454 at ¥110 to the dollar) per
person can be expected.
Last year Ehime Prefecture's Shikoku Chuo City conducted tests of brain function
and oral surveys regarding lifestyles involving more than 600 local elderly. Based
on the results of the survey, the city implemented a dementia-prevention program
in October and plans to demonstrate the efficacy of this effort. Additionally,
the "Active Brain Wellness Classroom" in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward conducted
testing in October, and the results showed that the course was effective, with
five out of seven people with mild cognitive impairment achieving normal cognitive
function in three months.
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
(May 24, 2002)
(January 11, 2001)