A study suggests that people who play board games or cards have higher chances of remaining mentally sharp when they get older.
They also found that behavioral change could make a difference later in life; people who played more regularly during their 70s were more likely to retain certain thinking skills as they got older. The findings were published this week in The Journals of Gerontology.
The research team tested more than 1,000 people at the age of 70 for general thinking ability, thinking speed, problem-solving and memory. Until the age of 79, participants repeated the same mental tests every three years.
The group was also asked how often at the age of 70 and 76 they played games such as crosswords, bingo, cards or chess.
Do older people who play games have sharper thinking skills?
The researchers analyzed the relationship between a player's skill level and their thinking abilities by using statistical models. The team considered lifestyle factors like level of activity, socio-economic status, education and also the results of an intelligence test that participants completed at the age of 11.
For people who played games more frequently, had sharper thinking skills in their 70s, especially with regard to thinking speed and memory function.
Researchers claim that these findings help to better understand which types of behaviors and lifestyles may be linked with improved outcomes for cognitive health in older age.
The study can also help people choose the best way to protect their thinking skills when they get older.
"These latest findings demonstrate that greater participation in life-time activities could be associated with better thinking skills in later life," said Dr. Drew Altschul of the University's Faculty of Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistic Sciences for people in their 70s or beyond, another message seems to be that people have shown reduced cognitive decline by playing non-digital games.
Participants were part of the 1936 Lothian Birth Cohort Study, a group of individuals born in 1936 who participated in the Scottish Mental Survey in 1947.
Since 1999, researchers have collaborated with the Lothian Birth Cohorts to capture how a person's mind capacity changes over the course of his or her life. The follow-up times in the cohorts are among the longest in the world.
"Our Lothian sample does not seem to be just general intellectual and social activity, it's something in this group of games that has small but easily noticed link with better cognitive aging," said Professor Ian Deary, director of the Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. "It would be good to see if some of these games are more effective than others." We also address the importance that some other things are related to better cognitive aging, such as not smoking and being physically active."
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added, "Although some people's thinking skills may decline with age, this research is yet another proof that it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The connection between non-digital games and board games in later life and memory skills and sharper thinking adds to our knowledge about the actions that we can take to protect our cognitive health, and also being active, eating healthy and not drinking alcohol excessively.
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