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Cards and board games help people staying mentally sharp later in life

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Posted November 29, 2019

Have you noticed that many older people love playing cards and board games? This is their way to socialize and have some fun. However, what they may not know is that this fun free-time activity also helps them protecting their thinking skills. This what a new study from the University of Edinburgh has found.

Even playing cards, domino or board games can push dementia away. Image credit: !KrzysiekBu! via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientists tested more than 1000 people aged 70 for memory, problem solving, thinking speed and general thinking ability. During the period of 9 years they repeated the test several times. At the same time psychologists were gathering information about how often participants are playing games like cards, chess, bingo or crosswords. Then statistical models allowed researchers to effectively find the correlation between cognitive abilities of these people and their habits of playing games. Of course, other factors, such as education, socioeconomic status and activity levels, were also taken into consideration.

Study showed that people who do enjoy these games maintain mental sharpness better than those who do not play games. In short, their memory and thinking skills were better. Even though it may sound bizarre, it is actually not that surprising.

Numerous studies have shown that mind remains sharp when it is constantly used. That is why scientists had to take education into account. You use your mind to think and to solve problems. That is why puzzles are so powerful – they can delay Alzheimer’s progression. And board games and cards are not much different. You have to think about your next movement really well and to try and predict what you opponents are going to do. It is a bit of a mental exercise. And better still – each round is somehow different.

Not only that, but people who play games are generally more social. They spend time with other people, have fun. Loneliness kills and dulls people. Iron sharpens iron and people sharpen people.

Professor Ian Deary, one of the authors of the study, said: “We and others are narrowing down the sorts of activities that might help to keep people sharp in older age. In our Lothian sample, it is not just general intellectual and social activity, it seems; it is something in this group of games that has this small but detectable association with better cognitive ageing”.

Scientists would like to find out what games provide the biggest benefit in terms of staying sharp in later stages of life. If they knew that, they could recommend it to people who are proactive about their mental health and aging. Also, scientists are urging people not to take this as a complete recipe – you still have to exercise and eat well.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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