Patient Daily Living

Board Games: Fun At Any Age!

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 5 year old to a 95 year old can enjoy them.

Every time seniors play a card, board game or even computer game, they're staying sharp—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 percent.

Senior fitness is not just for he body. 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, or brain game. 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 percent 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 every day or almost every day.

Playing games not only provides entertainment and quality companionship—it also helps prolong seniors' sharpness of mind and quality of life. So go on, and buy your mom, dad, aunt or uncle a game and have fun—staying sharp can be a family affair!

A Note From Parentgiving:
Many new video and board games have flooded the marketplace recently, aimed at improving the mental skills of middle-aged and senior adults. An interesting addition is Brainpower Game Plan, subtitled "Foods, Moves and Games to Clear Brain Fog, Boost Memory, and Age-Proof Your Mind in 4 Weeks." Written by memory expert Cynthia R. Green with editors of Prevention magazine, the engaging activity book incorporates the findings of a lot of independent research. By improving your diet, increasing the type and quality of your physical exercise and working on the books mind-game exercises, readers of all ages can work to reduce "senior moments" and stay sharp.

- Written By

Kathy Johnson

Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC is Co-Founder of Home Care Assistance, which she began after having gone through her own struggles in finding elderly care for her out-of-state parents. Since its inception in 2002, Home Care Assistance has been the premier provider of live-in home care for seniors, first in the San Francisco Bay Area and currently throughout North America.