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by Kimberly Griffith
Tuesday, Aug. 07, 2007 at 7:20 PM
Whether it’s playing the latest Nintendo Wii game or sitting down for a hand of Bridge, seniors engage in a variety of activities – old and new – to exercise their minds. “Good-bye Bingo: Seniors Go High Tech” from the Home Instead Senior Care, serving seniors in Burbank, Long Beach and Hemet. It highlights recent trends as some seniors gravitate toward video games, but also focuses on traditional games and companionship/conversation as ways to challenge the brain.
Good-bye Bingo: More Seniors Turn to Technology to Keep Minds Active
LOS ANGELES, Calif.– Good-bye Bingo, hello high tech. As today’s seniors search for ways to keep their minds active, some are turning from tradition to the latest gadgets typically reserved for the younger generation.
“Aging is about taking on new challenges for the mind,” said Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, who says video games are a good way to keep older adults’ minds active.
“Like kids, seniors are playing games with people all around the world,” she said.
Recently, health plan provider Evercare surveyed 100 Americans turning 100 and discovered that one in seven has played video games. PopCap Games in Seattle reported -more- that its Internet video games have been downloaded more than 200 million times since the company was founded in 2000; a survey last year showed that 47 percent of the players were older than 50.
Retailers are seeing a trend, too. Billed as “a treadmill for the mind,” Nintendo’s hand-held Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day game with math, memory and brain jumbles is attracting the attention of graying gamers, as is the company’s interactive Wii system that lets seniors compete in sports like bowling and golf. Some senior centers are hosting Wii tournaments.
“Research shows that whether it’s a video game, a board game or a simple card game, exercising the mind keeps it young and vital,” said Gary Reid owner of Home Instead Senior Care in Burbank serving Los Angeles County. “The popular phrase ‘use it or lose it’ holds true.”
Researchers in a study published just last year in Psychological Medicine from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, found that individuals with high brain reserve – the cumulative effect of formal education and mentally challenging work and leisure pursuits – have a 46-percent decreased risk of dementia than those with low brain reserve. Results showed that even a late-life surge in mental activity could stave off the effects of dementia.
One deterrent for many seniors who would like to stay mentally active is lack of companionship – particularly for those older adults who live alone.
“Sometimes seniors just need a little encouragement from family and friends to help them pursue interests that can keep their minds stimulated,” said Reid, who suggests a group game night or taking the senior to a concert or interesting lecture.
“Our caregivers see positive changes in seniors’ attitudes and well-being when they regularly play cards and other games, complete puzzles or simply listen to music,” he said. “And never underestimate the power of conversation.”
So what causes senior brain drain? From a scientific standpoint, multiple factors apparently contribute to a sluggish senior mind, said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
“There is often a genetic component, and the environment plays a role as well,” said Petersen, the first physician to diagnose the late former President Ronald Reagan with Alzheimer’s disease. “The cumulative impact of medical issues such as vascular changes and hardening of the arteries also contribute to dementia. The connections between the nerve cells probably also don’t work as well.”
There are no hard and fast rules about what senior mind activities are the best in warding off the effects of aging, he said.
“Whether it’s a computer game, crossword or Sudoku puzzles, or reading and analyzing a newspaper or magazine, first and foremost seniors should like what they’re doing,” he said. “If the senior does not enjoy the activity, then it is not as likely to be beneficial.”
For interviews with Dr. Ronald Petersen from Mayo Clinic and Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski from the University of Southern California, contact Kimberly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home Instead Senior Care is the world's largest provider of comprehensive companionship and home care services for seniors through a network of franchise offices located in the United States, Canada, Japan, Portugal, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland. The company’s services are designed for practically any living arrangement where an older adult simply needs human interaction and help with day-to-day activities. For more information, visit www.homeinstead.com.
Ten Tips for Mind-Stimulating Fun
Home Instead Senior Care suggests ways to help engage your senior loved one in mind-stimulating activities.
Video action. Interactive video games have become popular for family members of all ages. Some games, like Nintendo’s Brain Age and Wii, are particularly good for challenging seniors’ minds.
Computer savvy not needed. Even seniors who are intimidated by the computer still can play online and other computer games. Help them get started playing Solitaire or joining an online bridge game.
Organize game night. Board games offer a great avenue for mind stimulation. Encourage your senior loved one to get a few friends together to join in the fun.
The magic of music. Many seniors were avid musicians in earlier years and some may still have pianos or instruments in their homes. Ask them to play you a tune.
Tournament fun. Bridge, Scrabble and other game tournaments for seniors are springing up around the country. Encourage your older adult to join in.
Think big. Crossword and large-piece jigsaw puzzles are great pastimes for seniors who need a mind-stimulating activity when they are alone.
Out and about. Most communities have concerts, lectures and other events that can interest seniors and their families.
In the news. Many seniors maintain their interest in politics and current events. Consider renewing a subscription to a newspaper or popular news magazine.
Just the two of you. When it’s just you and your senior loved one, turn off the TV and consider the new quick versions of classic board games: Monopoly Express, Scrabble Express and Sorry Express. They don’t take long to play.
Companionship counts. Companionship is an important part of stimulating seniors’ minds. Plan frequent visits or consider hiring a professional caregiver to provide companionship.
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