Seniors Should Bring Out Their Inner Child

Every time seniors play a game of cards or Scrabble® or even play certain computer games, they’re stimulating their brains and staving off the onset of dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease. This conclusion comes from long-time and recent studies that found that seniors who engage in mentally demanding leisure activities lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia by as much as 75 percent.

Sometimes A Game Isn’t Only A Game.
Researchers found that playing chess, checkers, backgammon or cards was associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Playing a musical instrument and reading had similar effects. Solving frequent crossword puzzles helped too, but to a lesser degree. Curiously, most physical activities, like group exercise or team games, did not show much of a positive effect on reducing dementia in this study. The only exception was ballroom dancing. Researchers think this benefit comes from the mental demands of remembering dance steps, moving to music and coordinating with a partner.

Your Brain. Use It or Lose It.
Seniors need to exercise their brains on a regular basis as they grow older. They should set aside one hour each day for this area of exercise. Activities that keep a person actively searching for words (such as Scramble®, Scrabble®, and crossword puzzles) are especially helpful for improving word recognition, retaining vocabulary and reducing memory loss.

Seniors who engaged in cognitive exercises by playing board games or doing Sudoku puzzles were much less likely to develop dementia thanthose who did not.

Taking the High Tech Approach
Electronic games and even computer-based, cognitive training programs can actually reverse cognitive impairment in many seniors. One such game is Simon®, the electronic game that became a pop culture icon in the 1980s and is still selling wildly today. To win, the player must repeat the pattern of lights and sounds made by the computer by pressing the buttons in the same sequence. The longer it’s played the faster the game goes. Another similar game is Bop It® where the player must repeat an ever-growing sequence of actions that are called out by the toy until they make a mistake. Like Simon®, Bop It® tests and trains the player's cognitive and memory skills however it also adds a physical aspect.

Computers are becoming more popular with the elderly as computers and video game consoles (particularly the Nintendo Wii) become more accessible and affordable. As of 2008, more than 23% of older adults in North America aged 65 and older play computer games. Seniors who do play computer games tend to play them more frequently than younger adults. Over one-third of gamers 65 and older say they play games everyday or almost everyday.

The best computer games for seniors are ones that require them to use their memory, calculation and decision making skills, instead of simply shootem-up games or simulators. Many computer games are now designed solely to keep the mind sharp and can be played by people of all ages (such as Ultimate Brain Games on the Nintendo DS and Brain Challenge on the XBOX 360). Playing games not only provides entertainment and quality companionship, it also helps prolong seniors’ sharpness of mind and quality of life.

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