Health

Playing Traditional Games Protects Your Thinking Skills As You Age, Says New 68-Year Study

Playing Traditional Games Protects Your Thinking Skills As You Age, Says New 68-Year Study

People who play games—such as cards and board games—are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life, a study suggests.

According to psychologists from the University of Edinburgh, people who regularly played non-digital games scored better on memory and thinking tests in their 70s.

They also found that a behavior change in later life could still make a difference; people who increased game-playing during their 70s were more likely to maintain certain thinking skills as they grew older. The results were published this week in The Journals of Gerontology.

The research team tested more than 1,000 people aged 70 for memory, problem-solving, thinking speed and general thinking ability. The participants then repeated the same thinking tests every three years until aged 79.

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The group was 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 team took into account lifestyle factors such as education, socio-economic status, and activity levels, as well as the results of an intelligence test that the participants completed when they were 11 years old.

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.

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Researchers say the findings help to better understand what kinds of lifestyles and behaviors might be associated with better outcomes for cognitive health in later life.

The study may also help people make decisions about how best to protect their thinking skills as they age.

“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’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.”

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The participants 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.

“In our Lothian sample, it’s 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 aging,” said Professor Ian Deary, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology. “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.”

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Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, also added: “Even though some people’s thinking skills can decline as we get older, this research is further evidence that it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The connection between playing board games and other non-digital games later in life and sharper thinking and memory skills adds to what we know about steps we can take to protect our cognitive health, including not drinking excess alcohol, being active and eating a healthy diet.”

Reprinted from the University of Edinburgh

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Published at Thu, 28 Nov 2019 19:39:38 +0000