A mix of board games

Board games can protect thinking skills in old age

A new study suggests that people who play games, like cards and board games, are more likely to stay sharp in later life

Psychologists at the University tested more than 1000 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. The group were also asked how often they played games like cards, chess, bingo or crosswords – at ages 70 and 76.  

People who increased game playing in their 70s were more likely to maintain thinking skills like memory function and thinking speed as they grew older.

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

Lifestyle factors

Researchers say the findings help to better understand what kinds of activities might be associated with better outcomes for cognitive health in old age.

It would 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 ageing, such as being physically fit and not smoking.

Professor Ian Deary

The participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study. They are a group of individuals born in 1936 who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947.

Since 1999, researchers have been working with the LBCs 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.

The study features in The Journals of Gerontology Series B:
The Journals of Gerontology Series B (link to paper)

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