It has been a scientific certainty for years now that well-programmed brain training activities help maintain or boost cognitive function in those over 60. Lately, however, the gaming industry has branched off into a category of product that claims to do even more.
The billion-dollar industry offshoot sells gaming titles that claim to push back signs of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s that cause mental decline in the elderly. If you are concerned for yourself or for a loved one, how much stock should you put in these claims?
What do brain training games for the elderly look like?
A recent article in Nature described a research project aimed at testing the effects of simple games on the mental health of those between ages 60 and 85. A game named Neuroracer was used. It involved the task of steering a car down a twisting road that had street signs at random intervals. Participants needed to guide their car correctly and also press a button whenever they saw a sign.
After playing the game for 12 hours over a month, participants were tested for multitasking ability and short-term memory in everyday tasks, and were found to have achieved substantial improvement. Surprisingly, they performed better at the game than 20-year-olds without experience.
World of Warcraft is another game that the elderly at risk of Alzheimer’s are tested on in studies of this kind. Encouraging improvements have been reported in abilities in every area from reading skills to driving skills. In some cases, seniors with a good deal of time on these games were found to have grown brain volume.
Can video games actually help you beat dementia and Alzheimer’s?
It’s early stages yet, but data released by the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggests that a regular video game habit can help reduce the most troubling symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia by up to 50%.
It is almost certain that a gaming habit can prevent Alzheimer’s
The NIH has actively studied elderly brain health for years. One particularly detailed study named ACTIVE followed the elderly over a ten-year period. Its findings have been very encouraging for elderly mental health. A 50% drop in the risk of Alzheimer’s is reported for even modest exposure to video games. Not even brain training exercises such as memory classes have been known to offer results as impressive.
It’s important to take these findings seriously
Certainly, some opposing views do exist. Some expert researchers continue to be skeptical that biological mental decline could be reversed by a few hours of video gaming. Yet, there are enough positive studies now to justify action. Whether it’s for yourself or for an elderly parent, there’s nothing wrong with going all-out in pursuit of video game pleasure. Investing in the best equipment, the best gaming chair and titles that you enjoy, can only make things better.
Evie Harper is passionate about gaming and technology. She wanted to prove to her family that gaming isn’t a bad thing, and soon discovered the amazing reality that gaming has actually been discovered as good for kids and the elderly. She shares her knowledge and her passion in her online articles.