In today's technology-driven society, Americans typically rely on GPS devices to get from point A to point B. That takes thinking out of navigating, which can actually be doing more harm than good in the long run.
It's not the way most people navigate these days. Dennis Pavelock first learned to read maps back when he was in the U.S. military. Even in today's world, it’s still his preferred method of navigating.
“It’s old school today because I know GPS is the future, but old-school maps still work just as well,” he said. Pavelock was studying the map to visit a park he hasn’t been to in over 10 years.
What You Need To Know
- Relying on a GPS device to get around may increase your chances of cognitive decline, according to a new study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada
- Dennis Pavelock thrives on the physical challenge of using his brain to get around, including real maps and asking people for directions
- Dr. Fabio Danisi, a neurologist, doesn't believe in ditching GPS altogether, but he does recommend combining physical activity with navigation skills to maintain brain plasticity or keeping your brain circuits active
- Researchers say there are easy ways to incorporate more navigation into your daily life such as taking a different route for your run, walk or bike ride. And when you’re driving, find a different way to get to work or another familiar location without GPS
You won’t find a GPS mount in his car and the map, no need to pull it out again.
“I got a photographic memory,” Pavelock said. “And I got a memory like an elephant, as they say, so how about that one?”
Pavelock, a community advocate who’s in his late 50s, often goes to unfamiliar places, sometimes without a map to guide him.
“I’m used to calling someone up on the phone, 'Give me directions on how to get to ya,' and I find people just as good as that,” he said.
A new study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that using a real physical map to navigate may help lower your chances of cognitive decline and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. And having strong orientation skills can improve brain health.
Pavelock thrives on the physical challenge of using his brain to get around, and he says it’s paying off.
“Today I can remember things 33 and 35 years ago,” he said.
Combining physical activity with navigation skills, according to some neurologists, is a great way to maintain brain plasticity, or keeping your brain circuits active.
“It’s exercise. Plus, having to think of where you’re going, that really boosts spatial memory,” said Dr. Fabio Danisi, associate director of neurology at MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center. “Because we all know that, for example, exercise is good for other forms of memory. So my advice is travel, go to a place that you’ve not been to before, read about it and study the map and then try to get a little lost also.”
Pavelock is an advocate for people ditching their GPS altogether. Danisi favors turning off the GPS, to avoid losing cognitive skills.
“I don’t think using GPS is a bad thing,” Danisi said. “I think what is bad is that we rely only on these kinds of technology, which have their role, but we have to also use our brain and use it in interesting and creative ways.”
Pavelock says he wants to use his brain to make it work for him.
“If we can get away from that GPS, the techy stuff, and go back to the maps and increase our brain activity, we’ll be way ahead of the game,” he said.
Researchers say there are easy ways to incorporate more navigation into your daily life such as taking a different route for your run, walk or bike ride. And when you’re driving, find a different way to get to work or another familiar location without GPS.