Science shows seniors concentrate better in the morning

There are several factors that may affect a senior’s cognitive health, including diet, exercise and – according to a recent study from Canadian researchers – the time of day. During the morning hours, older adults are more likely to pay attention, field distractions and exercise their brain power, the study found.

The findings, which were published in Psychology and Aging, may have long-term implications for the field of memory care, as caregivers may be able to provide more effective treatments for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Study finds older adults more alert in the a.m.
Researchers from some of Canada’s most prestigious universities teamed up to conduct the study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. As part of the study, both older and younger adults were asked to participate in a series of cognitive tests during several different points of the day. These exercises included recalling certain images that flashed on a computer screen, matching words and pictures, and studying prompts that appeared on the devices.

Scientists discovered that seniors who performed tasks between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. were not only less distracted and more accurate in their testing, but also capable of performing at a similar cognitive level as younger adults between 19 and 30. John Anderson, the study’s author and Ph.D. candidate at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences and the University of Toronto, explained that the findings were crucial for understanding how an adult’s brain functions after a certain age.

“Time of day really does matter when testing older adults,” Anderson said. “This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon.”

Mentally-stimulating activities fare better in the morning
Dr. Lynn Hasher, a senior author on the study and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, echoed the same sentiment, explaining that the findings indicated that older adults were as capable as their younger counterparts of completing cognitive tasks, but were just more likely to complete them during the early hours. This may be crucial for caregivers working in memory care homes or long term care communities, as they may be able to provide more effective treatments for older adults in the morning.

Researchers suggest that seniors complete mentally-rigorous activities in the morning, as they may produce more accurate and high-quality work during this time. These activities can include working with finances, completing memory tasks and cooking more complex recipes.