Computer, cell phone use may improve seniors' mental age by 4 to 8 years

Today's seniors have better cognitive function than seniors did 10 years ago, and cell phone and computer use could be a factor, according to a new study.

Researchers tested cognitive function in English and German seniors over age 50 in two groups, one in 2006 and one in 2012. Those tested in 2012 had better cognitive function, verbal fluency and memory. Seniors tested in 2012 were performing as well as those four to eight years younger who were tested in 2006, researchers found.

While this could be a result of improved education, healthcare and nutrition, researchers believe the tech boom of the early 2000s could be a driver.

“In many cases 52-year-olds from 2006 had the same score as 60-year-olds from 2012,” lead researcher Valeria Bordone, PhD, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis told Quartz. “The levels of education hadn't changed much among these two populations, but we could see that their use of computers and mobile phones had changed quite a bit.”

The “rewarding, complex” challenges of computers and cell phones could be help cognitive function, researchers said.

Full results of the study were published in Intelligence.