Board Games Can Sharpen Memory in Old Age
Sat, April 10, 2021

Board Games Can Sharpen Memory in Old Age

Playing board games and cards don't only chase away boredom, but can also help you stay mentally sharp / Photo by: Gohengs via Shutterstock

 

Playing board games and cards don't only chase away boredom, but can also help you stay mentally sharp. A new study has found that people who engage in non-digital games have higher scores on memory and thinking skills when they reach old age. The results of the study also suggest people who continue to play these games in their 70s are more likely to maintain certain thinking skills as they age. Behavioral changes in later life were also observed in the research from the University of Edinburgh.

Keeping the Mind’s Agility

The study involved 1,091 people aged 70 who were tested for their memory, problem-solving, thinking speed, and general thinking ability every three years until they were 79 years old. University of Edinburgh scientists also asked how often the participants played games like cards, chess, bingo, or crosswords at the onset and when they were aged 76.

Statistical models were then applied to determine the relationship between a participant's level of game playing and their thinking skills, according to a statement from the university. It adds that the researchers analyzed the results of an intelligence test the participants took when they were 11 years old as well as lifestyle factors like education, socio-economic status, and activity levels.

"Frequency of playing analog games at age 70 was generally high, with 320 participants (33% of 961) reporting that they played games every day or nearly every day," the researchers said in the study published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences.

The responses were similar at age 76, with 222 participants (33% of 682) saying they play games every day or nearly every day. However, the researchers noted there were some individuals who changed their playing habits: 160 increased their frequency of playing games to some degree. 

Overall, the results showed that people who played more non-digital games in later years are less likely to experience a decline in thinking skills in old age, specifically in memory function and thinking speed. The researchers said the findings may help people make decisions about how they can best protect their thinking skills as they grow older.

Subtle Connection

The researchers note that their findings can help understand how certain lifestyles and behaviors are linked to better outcomes for cognitive health in later life.

Playing non-digital games may be a positive behavior for people in their 70s and beyond in regards to reducing cognitive decline, according to Drew Altschul, from the University's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

In terms of IQ, the researchers found that playing more games is associated with 1.02 points less reduction in general ability,
and 3.06 points less reduction in memory ability from age 70 to 79.

The study also indicates there is something in board and card games that has a subtle yet still detectable connection with better cognitive aging / Photo by: wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock

 

The study also indicates there is something in board and card games that has a subtle yet still detectable connection with better cognitive aging. Ian Deary, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, said they are looking and narrowing down the kinds of activities that could help maintain sharp thinking skills in older age.

"It would be good to find out if some of these games are more potent than others," Deary said, as per a report on The Independent "We also point out that several other things are related to better cognitive aging, such as being physically fit and not smoking."

The researchers claim that the findings of their work declining thinking skills don't have to be inevitable as people get older. They said the association between playing board games and other non-digital games with sharper thinking and memory skills adds to the known steps that can be taken to protect the cognitive health.

However, they noted that additional work needs to be done, including randomized controlled trials with larger numbers to determine whether non-digital games can help avoid the cognitive decline in old age.

Analog Games Are Ageless

The great thing about non-digital games is that they are always there, even if digital games are emerging left and right. People of any age can enjoy them as they are easy to understand and play.

These games have also been found to stimulate the brain and curb the onset of dementia or even Alzheimer's disease, according to ParentGiving.com, an online site dedicated to providing comprehensive resources for caregivers of the elderly.

It adds that such a conclusion stems from both long-time and recent studies that concluded: "Seniors who engage in mentally demanding leisure activities lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias by as much as 75 percent."

The great thing about non-digital games is that they are always there, even if digital games are emerging left and right. People of any age can enjoy them as they are easy to understand and play / Photo by: ChameleonsEye via Shutterstock

 

Caregivers should set aside at least an hour a day for people of old age to play games like Scrabble, crossword, or any game that can improve word recognition, retain vocabulary, and reduce memory loss.

"Seniors who engaged in cognitive exercises by playing board games or doing Sudoku puzzles were much less likely to develop dementia than those who did not," ParentGiving.com explains.

Not only do these provide companionship, especially the ones that are played by a group, but they also help in keeping the mind sharp and improving the quality of life among the elderly.