Does Game Playing Keep Your Brain Healthy?

Dementia Care experts from Elmcroft Senior Living share research on games and brain health. 01/22/2015

Can playing games really keep your brain fit?  If you are an older adult or the caregiver for one, you may have read that crossword puzzles and other games can give your brain a workout.  If someone you are related to lives with Alzheimer’s disease, you probably wonder if games can really help protect your brain’s health. We decided to dig in to the brain games for the elderly issue a little more.

The Effects of Brain Games for Older Adults

Several studies looked at whether or not programs like Lumosity really work. One was conducted at the University of Michigan and one at Brown University. Both are reputable research institutions. Participants in both groups worked on Lumosity for several hours a day, every day in the lab. The brain training studies lasted several months.

What researchers at both universities found was that seniors who faithfully worked these brain health programs saw improvement in attention span and memory.  It led to a boost in working memory which is essential in helping us complete the activities of daily living.

Then there are the naysayers.  Researchers at Georgia Tech duplicated the study with a group of 11,000 participants over six weeks.  They set tighter study parameters under a more controlled environment.  Their research found that games helped to improve only the process of executing daily tasks.  They didn’t find any evidence to support improvements in any other brain functions from the brain activities for the elderly.

Proven Methods for Keeping Your Brain Healthier

There are other methods you can use to keep your brain fit.  They include:

  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Most researchers agree that high cholesterol can lead to strokes. When your brain is deprived of blood, which is what happens during a stroke, it can cause irreversible damage to brain cells.
  • Stay physically active. Performing thirty minutes of some type of exercise most days of the week is what many physicians recommend to their patients. It can help cut your risk for cardiac problems, stroke and diabetes which can all be linked to different types of dementia.
  • Keep social circles active. Loneliness has been identified as a serious health risk for older adults. It can contribute to a variety of chronic health conditions ranging from depression to obesity. Staying actively involved with family and friends as well as the community is important in later years.

One resource recommended by the experts from Heartland Village, Elmcroft Senior Living’s dedicated memory care program, is the interactive Brain Tour developed by the Alzheimer’s Association.  The step-by-step, guided tour of the brain covers everything from the role neurons play to how Alzheimer’s interrupts the signals healthy brain cells emit.