Playing card and board games may help protect thinking skills in old age, according to new research.
A new study found that people who regularly played non-digital games scored better on memory and thinking tests in their 70s.
And researchers say that adding in those games later in life can still make a difference. They found that people who increased game playing during their 70s were more likely to maintain certain thinking skills as they grew older.
For the study, psychologists at the University of Edinburgh tested 1,000 70-year-olds who were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study, a group of individuals who were born in 1936 and took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947.
Since 1999, researchers have been working with the Lothian Birth Cohorts to chart how a person’s thinking power changes over their lifetime. The follow-up times in the Cohorts are among the longest in the world.
For the latest study, researchers first tested the 70-year-olds for memory, problem solving, thinking speed, and general thinking ability.
The participants then repeated the same tests every three years until the age of 79.
They were also asked how often they played games like cards, chess, bingo, or crosswords at ages 70 and 76.
Researchers then used statistical models to analyze the relationship between a person’s level of game playing and their thinking skills.
The researchers noted they took into account the results of an intelligence test the participants took when they were 11 years old. They also considered lifestyle factors, such as education, socio-economic status, and activity levels.
What they discovered is that people who increased game playing in later years were found to have experienced less decline in thinking skills in their 70s, particularly in memory function and thinking speed.
The findings could help us understand what kinds of lifestyles and behaviors might be associated with better outcomes for cognitive health in later life, the researchers said.
The study may also help people make decisions about how best to protect their thinking skills as they age, they added.
“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,” said Dr. Drew Altschul of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. “For those in their 70s or beyond, another message seems to be that playing non-digital games may be a positive behavior in terms of reducing cognitive decline.”
According to Professor Ian Deary, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, it’s not just the “general intellectual and social activity” of the games that helps keep people mentally sharp as they age.
“It is something in this group of games that has this small but detectable association with better cognitive aging,” he said. “It’d be good to find out if some of these games are more potent than others. We also point out that several other things are related to better cognitive aging, such as being physically fit and not smoking.”
The study was published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences.
Source: University of Edinburgh