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Study: For better memory and thinking skills at age 70 (and beyond), play cards and board games from age 11

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Cards, board games could ward off cog­ni­tive decline (UPI):

Play­ing cards and board games like chess, bin­go and Scrab­ble might be the men­tal work­out you need to keep your wits as you age, Scot­tish researchers sug­gest.

Peo­ple in their 70s who reg­u­lar­ly play board games score high­er on tests of mem­o­ry and think­ing skills than those who don’t. And 70-some­things who step up their game-play­ing are more like­ly to main­tain think­ing skills as they age, researchers say … Unlike read­ing, writ­ing, tak­ing class­es, vis­it­ing muse­ums, libraries or friends and rel­a­tives, games appear to more active­ly engage abil­i­ties like mem­o­ry, think­ing speed and rea­son­ing, Altschul said. “So, this fits with what we call the ‘use it or lose it’ the­o­ry, that exer­cis­ing your men­tal abil­i­ties more keeps them in bet­ter shape,” he said …

Peo­ple who played more games as they got old­er had less decline in men­tal skills in their 70s, par­tic­u­lar­ly in mem­o­ry func­tion and think­ing speed, researchers found.”

These lat­est find­ings add to evi­dence that being more engaged in activ­i­ties dur­ing the life course might be asso­ci­at­ed with bet­ter think­ing skills in lat­er life. For those in their 70s or beyond, anoth­er mes­sage seems to be that play­ing non-dig­i­tal games may be a pos­i­tive behav­iour in terms of reduc­ing cog­ni­tive decline.”

Dr. Drew Altschul at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Edin­burgh’s School of Phi­los­o­phy, Psy­chol­o­gy and Lan­guage Sci­ences

The Study:

Play­ing Ana­log Games Is Asso­ci­at­ed With Reduced Declines in Cog­ni­tive Func­tion: A 68-Year Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Cohort Study (The Jour­nals of Geron­tol­ogy: Series B). From the abstract:

  • Objec­tives: Play­ing ana­log games may be asso­ci­at­ed with bet­ter cog­ni­tive func­tion but, to date, these stud­ies have not had exten­sive lon­gi­tu­di­nal fol­low-up. Our goal was to exam­ine the asso­ci­a­tion between play­ing games and change in cog­ni­tive func­tion from age 11 to age 70, and from age 70 to 79.
  • Method: Par­tic­i­pants were 1,091 non­clin­i­cal, inde­pen­dent, com­mu­ni­ty-dwelling indi­vid­u­als all born in 1936 and resid­ing in Scot­land. Gen­er­al cog­ni­tive func­tion was assessed at ages 11 and 70, and hier­ar­chi­cal domains were assessed at ages 70, 73, 76, and 79 using a com­pre­hen­sive cog­ni­tive bat­tery of 14 tests. Games play­ing behav­iors were assessed at ages 70 and 76. All mod­els con­trolled for ear­ly life cog­ni­tive func­tion, edu­ca­tion, social class, sex, activ­i­ty lev­els, and health issues. All analy­ses were pre­reg­is­tered.
  • Results: High­er fre­quen­cy of play­ing games was asso­ci­at­ed with high­er cog­ni­tive func­tion at age 70, con­trol­ling for age 11 cog­ni­tive func­tion, and the major­i­ty of this asso­ci­a­tion could not be explained by con­trol vari­ables. Play­ing more games was also asso­ci­at­ed with less gen­er­al cog­ni­tive decline from age 70 to age 79, and in par­tic­u­lar­ly, less decline in mem­o­ry abil­i­ty. Increased games play­ing between 70 and 76 was asso­ci­at­ed with less decline in cog­ni­tive speed.
  • Dis­cus­sion: Play­ing games were asso­ci­at­ed with less rel­a­tive cog­ni­tive decline from age 11 to age 70, and less cog­ni­tive decline from age 70 to 79. Con­trol­ling for age 11 cog­ni­tive func­tion and oth­er con­founders, these find­ings sug­gest that play­ing more games is linked to reduced life­time decline in cog­ni­tive func­tion.

The Study in Context:

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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