Guest Post by Gary Simmons
As we age, our brains naturally process information slower and slower, beginning before our 30s, according to Sari Harrar, writing for WebMD.com. It becomes increasingly important to keep our brains in shape by challenging them with exercise. Brain exercise, you ask? Yes, brain exercise, in the form of activities that require us to think and make decisions based on information and criteria.
What are these activities that exercise our brain? Harrar continues: “In a 2007 study that scanned the brains of 23 elderly people, Dr. Laurienti found that those who’d gone through a brain-training program were better able to focus — a plus because aging brains become more distractible.”
“Growing evidence suggests that a lifetime spent using your noodle — in your day job as an astrophysicist or mom, or after hours playing Monopoly, tooting the clarinet in your local chamber group, or doing crossword puzzles — may build extra brain connections (a kind of mental savings account called cognitive reserve) and slow the symptoms of dementia.”
“But suppose you aren’t a clarinet player, or your knowledge of astrophysics is that the sky is overhead. Are there simpler activities — games, perhaps — that one could engage in to strengthen one’s mind?” Yes, there are many games to choose from, and here are some of the top games to get your “noodle,” as Harrar terms the brain, pumping iron, so to speak.
Braintraining101.com asks: “Are video games really great for boosting the brain? Yes! A professor at the University of Rochester recently did a study on video gamers and their brains. It showed that after playing, the gamers had improved attention, vision, and the ability to multitask. With vision specifically the gamers were able to tell the difference between subtle shades of gray, which could come in handy in real life (like when driving through the fog).”
What are the most effective video games for memory retention in seniors? According to Aplaceformom.com, “Researchers at North Carolina University discovered the benefits of video games for seniors, after some seniors improved their cognitive focus while playing the video game “World of Warcraft” for two hours a day, over a two-week period.”
“At the end of the two weeks, the people who had scored well on the baseline test had little change to their scores. But the people who had initially scored low showed significant improvement in both spatial ability and cognitive focus, after their exposure to the video game.”
According to the researchers involved in the study, the best video games for cognitive enhancement in seniors are the aforementioned World of Warcraft, NeuroRacer, and War Thunder.
Playing a round of golf is great for the brain, and it’s great for the entire body, too. Playing golf, according to Braintraining101.com, is great, as it requires “visualizing, which exercises the right part of your brain.” The left side, they note, is stimulated when “you strategize where you’ll hit the ball and how.”
Healthfitnessrevolution.com observes: “As your heart rate increases, so will blood flow to the brain, which can stimulate and improve nerve cell connections. This can delay mental illnesses such as dementia. While competing against others, golfers will also compete with themselves for personal best scores. This type of challenge boosts confidence and self-esteem, while the mental alacrity involved in tallying scores, improving strategy and fostering hand-eye coordination will keep the brain active in logical functions.”
Stimulating the brain in this way is a great way to enhance memory abilities. In addition, you’ll be outside, enjoying the scenery and the fresh air, which doesn’t hurt your overall health at all!
Memory games are great for any age, but they are particularly helpful for seniors. Memory games improve concentration, memory recollection and formation, and confidence. Memoryjoggingpuzzles.com states that “memory games/matching games are beneficial memory improving devices because they stimulate elderly minds, improve memory and help rebuild problem solving skills or thinking skills.” Memory games benefit both mental and physical needs of elderly persons.
Memoryjoggingpuzzles.com also states that memory games break down social barriers by opening up conversation and memories.
Since most people played board games as kids, seniors will be familiar with most of the best board games to help strengthen memory. According to Mastersofhealthcare.com, classic games such as chess, checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, and Mahjong, among others, have been proven to be effective in helping stimulate memory functioning.
Iloveindia.com recommends crossword puzzles. “Crossword puzzles are good entertainers for the young and old alike. If your grandparents or parents are interested in word games, crossword puzzles are the best way of keeping them pleasantly engaged. If he or she is mathematically-inclined, Sudoku is a good option to keep the brain from going dull. It will be a good stress-buster as well, for both their mental as well as physical fitness.”
Start Playing Games
For as long as there have been groups of people, there have been games. From games with rocks to games with computer chips, we have always had something that requires both skill and a little luck. And, since games can be enjoyed by anyone at almost any age, they stay with us during our lifetimes. They play an important role in helping us learn strategy and how to play well with others. As we age, our minds slowly regress, making it take longer to remember things, from the smallest detail to the largest.
Research has proven that games not only provide entertainment and aid in important social skill building, they help us revitalize our memories. Study after study has shown that the elderly can benefit from playing games that enhance their cognitive abilities. From a simple game of checkers to a more involved game of golf, games of all shapes, sizes, and levels can do wonders for the memories of seniors. Remember that.
Gary Simmons is a Certified Senior Advisor and Case Manager for A Hand to Hold. He strives to make the home care experience a better one for seniors and their families.