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Board Games: Fun at Any Age!

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– Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Who doesn’t enjoy playing a great game with their family or friends, or even by themselves? My favorite thing about board games is that they are ageless. Everyone from a five year old to a ninety five year old can enjoy them.

Every time seniors play a card, board or even computer game, 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%.

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® and Scrabble®) 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 than those who did not.

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. Computers are becoming more popular with the elderly. 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.

Playing games not only provides entertainment and quality companionship; it also helps prolong seniors’ sharpness of mind and quality of life. So go on- buy your mom, dad, aunt or uncle a game and have fun!

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