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DALLAS At 76, Shelley Hayden is getting out a lot more these days.

What opened new doors for the former economics teacher is the iPad.

This a new world, Hayden said. This is a miracle for someone like me who didn't even have cellphones. I didn t have a TV until I was 10 years old because TVs didn t exist.

Hayden had never used a computer tablet until a few months ago when she joined a scientific study at the Center for Longevity at the University of Texas in Dallas.

For 12 -weeks, she and other seniors between the ages of 60 and 90 learned to use the iPad and various apps.

Two other groups were also part of the study. One was assigned to a group that socialized, but didn t learn new things. The third group was assigned to performing quiet, non-challenging daily tasks at home.

The affect on memory is now published research in The Gerontologist, a bimonthly journal.

The people who learned to use the iPad not only learned a whole bunch of new skills that they could take with them, but they actually showed improvement in memory function at the end of three months, said Denise Park, co-director of the Center for Vital Longevity.

Park is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies how the mind ages and how to maintain cognitive performance.

While the iPad was an important tool in the study because of its user friendliness, she said it wasn't the computer that made the difference.Instead, she said it was the act of learning something new.

I can do anything with it, Hayden said of the iPad. And when I got home after the 15 weeks, I did more and more.

Hayden said she learns something new from her computer tablet every day. While sometimes she learns something new about the device and other times she discovers new information, she also enjoys playing games and emailing her grandchildren and other relatives.

No longer intimidated, Hayden has even taken an online college class, proving that 76 is not too old to learn new tricks.

Email jstjames@wfaa.com

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