What keeps you sharp?

Heriot-Watt researchers have launched a nationwide survey to explore people’s beliefs about how our thinking skills change as we age.

People often think of changes in their thinking skills in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. The new survey will get a clearer picture of how much people know about the possible changes and the factors they think might be good for brain health.

The ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’ survey is being led by researchers in the The Ageing Lab from Heriot-Watt University’s Psychology Department, Edinburgh.

Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology, leading the research, said, “As we age we may experience changes in our thinking, memory and reasoning skills. There is, however, large variation in the degree of change experienced.

“With this survey, we want to find out what people understand about how their thinking skills might change, and if they believe their lifestyle choices can affect those changes. By gaining a deeper understanding of what people across the country and of different ages believe, we can then better communicate what we know about how best to maintain thinking skills with age.“

To give the researchers the opportunity to compare how different age groups view the topic, the survey is open to adults across the UK aged 40 and over.

The survey is available online and paper copies can be requested directly from the research team. The researchers are also using their local and national networks to ensure a representative sample. The survey will remain open until early-February

Dr Gow added, “It’s important that we capture as broad a range of responses as possible. We’re working closely with our partners to ensure everyone can take part. And if people or groups want copies of the survey we’d be very happy to hear from them.”

Given international trends in ageing demographics, there is an increasing interest in how we might best protect or enhance our thinking skills as we age. The ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’ survey is the first phase of a new project exploring how a range of lifestyle factors affect cognitive skills in older people.

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