According to the Chicago Tribune, studies show that acting exercises and acting classes can help improve the functioning of elderly people's brains.
"You watch, and you can see, they are listening. That's what an actor does. He doesn't pretend to listen; he listens. Then you add imagination. . . . That total involvement—it's not just 'pretending,' but getting deeper into a scene—has made a difference, as the statistics show. Among people who have completed the course, improvement has been shown in comprehension, problem solving, verbal fluency and word recall. The biggest increase was in problem-solving skills, with a 52 percent improvement (by comparison, for those with no treatment, there was a 15 percent decline in ability)."
The studies are being conducted (and have been conducted for nearly fifteen years) by Drs. Helga and Tony Noice. Elmhurst College reported in 2005, "For 11 years, on two continents, Helga and Tony Noice have demonstrated that theatre training can improve older adults’ cognitive performance. They have shown that interacting with others in a dramatic situation – with its mental, emotional, and physiological aspects -- activates the brain, which can slow down (or even reverse) cognitive aging effects. . . . 'What is different about our approach is that we don’t target one specific ability (e.g., reasoning ability),' Tony Noice stated. 'Our aim is to improve overall cognitive functioning -- everyday mental skills, like memory, understanding, and problem-solving. These are the skills required to help people have fulfilled, independent lives.'"