Aging & Brain Health


Making efforts to ensure brain health keeps pace with our life span.

  • The global senior population is estimated to reach 2.1 billion by 205011
  • $1.1 trillion is the estimated cost of care for Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia in 205022
  • Studies show that activities that stimulate the brain, such as cognitive training, can protect against a decline in mental abilities.

Until recently, conventional wisdom held that our brains became “fixed” and stopped developing after we reached adulthood. Today, scientists now know that the brain remains malleable throughout our lives and that it can rewire itself based on experience by generating new neurons and forming new connections between neurons. These processes of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity hold immense promise for identifying innovative interventions to maintain and even improve cognition as we age, preventing cognitive impairment and avoiding the devastating impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia. 

A meta-analysis of thirty-one studies found that cognitive training by older adults with no known impairment can lead to significant improvements in working memory, processing speed, face-name recall, immediate recall, paired associations, and subjective cognitive function.33 A study cited by this review examined approximately 3000 people aged 65 to 94 who were randomly assigned to receive training for memory, reasoning, processing speed, or act as a control, and found evidence that each of the three groups receiving a form of cognitive training improved performance two years later, suggesting that the benefits can be durable.44

BrainFutures is developing a framework for assessing non-pharmaceutical brain-based applications to improve cognition for people as they age.

[1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Ageing 2017 – Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/397). Retrieved from

[2] Alzheimer’s Association. 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Dement 2018;14(3):367-429. Retrieved from

[3] Kelly ME, Loughrey D, Lawlor BA, Robertson IH, Walsh C, Brennan S. The impact of cognitive training and mental stimulation on cognitive and everyday functioning of healthy older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing research reviews. 2014 May 1;15:28-43.

[4] Ball K, Berch DB, Helmers KF, Jobe JB, Leveck MD, Marsiske M, Morris JN, Rebok GW, Smith DM, Tennstedt SL, Unverzagt FW. Effects of cognitive training interventions with older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Jama. 2002 Nov 13;288(18):2271-81.