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Seniors Should Tackle Tough Tasks in the Morning

Getting your hardest jobs out of the way in the morning seems like an extension of the old adage “early to bed, early to rise.” It’s good advice, according to a new study published in Psychology and Aging.

The Method

The study, done at the Rotman research Institute at the University of Toronto, involved two groups: 18 people between the ages of 60 to 87, and 16 people between the ages of 19 and 30.

The seniors took tests between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and again between 1 and 5 p.m. The other group took the same tests. The results concluded that the seniors were had peak alertness in the morning tests.

The Results

Members of both groups were hooked up to magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI so researchers could study their brains during the tests. In the morning, both groups used the same areas of the brain that handles focus and avoids distractions.

Researchers said that the brains of the seniors tested looked closer to that of a young adult. This means that “senior moment,“ the common problems with memory and focus, are not as apparent in the morning.

On the other hand, in the afternoon session the seniors activated the area of the brain associated with focus and avoided distractions at a much lower percentage than the young adult group, resulting in being 10% more likely to turn their attention to distracting information in the afternoon than the young adult group did.

“Cognitive decline is not as drastic as people thought it was. If you test people at their off-peak time of day, it’s going to exaggerate that,” said the leader of the study, John Anderson, a psychology doctoral candidate.

This is reassuring information for seniors whatever their current situation; whether that’s enjoying independent living, assisted living or in-home care.

The Takeaway

If you or your loved one is a senior, schedule your difficult mental jobs for early in the day when you brain is rested and ready for the challenge. Think taxes, tests, even cooking a new dish. Driving is another area that seniors can try to plan for morning hours when possible. Keep your less demanding jobs for later in the afternoon.

Schedule physical therapy and doctor’s appointments that deal with new medication for early in the day. You will be better able to convey information and interact with the healthcare team.

What other tough tasks are better handled by seniors in the morning, rather than the afternoon or evening? Please share in the comments below!

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