Keep learning to stave off dementia

It was disconcerting to read about the high occurrence of dementia in Singapore and that the number of such patients here is projected to increase from 40,000 now to 187,000 by 2050 ("Dementia costs S'pore $1.4b a year"; May 2).

As there is currently no cure for dementia, what can be done is to try to slow down the progress of the illness and to give support to caregivers.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. We should actively look for ways to prevent dementia even before symptoms emerge.

The functions of the human brain still mystify many scientists, and it is thought that most of us have not made full use of its latent capacity.

Many people easily forget what they have learnt after they finish school, and allow their brains to become lazy, as they retreat into their comfort zones.

That cannot be a healthy mindset, as brain function can start to decline when it is not challenged frequently and meaningfully enough.

We must believe that our brains are built for greater things.

To stave off dementia, we should develop innate curiosity and a propensity to question things that currently do not have ready answers.

I agree that older people should "find something - something new, something difficult - to immerse (themselves) in and improve at", so as to live a meaningful and satisfying life after retirement ("Better ageing through practice, practice, practice"; May 8). Sports such as tennis could be one, or even new languages.

Such exertions would invariably result in better strengthening of overall brain function and a more positive mental outlook.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Keep learning to stave off dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe