Alert - can brain training games help older people?
Monday, July 18, 2011 11:38 AM
Getting into a routine as we get older is something which happens naturally with many of us. As we age we tend to think we've figured out what we like and what we don't like - and to some extent we may be right.
But even relatively small things like watching the same TV programmes can mean that we may not be particularly stimulated - or have our views challenged - in our daily lives. The advantages of keeping physically active as we get older seem to have obvious health benefits - including helping to slow the ageing process. But beyond this, how do you ensure that you keep your mind agile as you age?
Some new moves
In fact, physical exercise itself can help to increase mental alertness. Something as simple as a short daily walk can lower blood sugar, improving blood flow to the brain, and so increase your ability to think more clearly. For more of a challenge, you could perhaps try taking up a dance class. Learning new moves is said to activate your brain, leading it to develop new neural connections, while the dancing itself calms the stress response of the brain.
Something which many older people may not have considered is reaching for a games console. These days it isn't all about Mario and Metal Gear - the last few years have seen the rise of 'brain training' computer games, which aim to keep your brain trim.
Perhaps the most famous of these is Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo's handheld DS system. This offers quick mental exercises - which you perform for just a few minutes each day - the idea being to keep your mind sharp and in shape. You can write the answer with the stylus, or even speak into the in-built microphone, so technophobes need not be afraid. But you don't necessarily need to invest in new gadgets - there are many versions of brain training games available for PCs, and also to download for smartphones.
Gaming the system?
However, it seems that not everyone agrees about the benefits of such games. In 2008, research found that computer-based brain training could result in improvements to general problem solving abilities. However, a more recent study found that, while those who used them became better at the games themselves, these skills were not transferable to other applications.
But while there are differing opinions on brain training games, they nevertheless could provide some enjoyment, and at the very least, could help a techno-shy older person interact with computers for the first time.
Other ideas which could help your brain remain active:
• Eating more foods which include omega-3 fats, such as oily fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil.
• Spending more time with young people - for example, your grandchildren.
• Learning new skills, for example a foreign language.
• Volunteering your time - especially if you miss working.
Looking after your mental well being is just as important as keeping your physical health in check – regardless of age. Having other things in order, such as your finances and appropriate life insurance can also help give you peace of mind, leaving you to concentrate on enjoying your time and family.
Issued by Sainsbury's Finance