SENIOR LOOKOUT: Playing games can benefit your brain | News

Before closing in 2020, I was part of a group that likes to play board games. The play sessions were fun and challenging. I met new people and learned new games. Sometimes I won, many times I lost. Winning and losing weren’t that important to me. I had a lot of fun every time I played. When everything shut down in March 2020, we found online board game websites, where developers converted games into an electronic version. Over the past two years, we’ve played many of our favorite games online, chatting via Facetime apps or on the phone while we played. As someone living on my own and working from home for 18 months, this has greatly reduced my feelings of isolation and loneliness.

As we age, we need to keep stimulating our brains regularly. I’ve seen recommendations that we should set aside at least an hour a day to do something that challenges our brains. It can be learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, or playing a game that requires us to think in order to win. Games like Scrabble are good because they help us build and/or retain our vocabulary. Games like Yahtzee or Suduku help us maintain our ability to use numbers. Both types of games are considered cognitive exercises. Studies have shown that people who regularly participate in cognitive exercises are less likely to develop dementia.

Another benefit of board games is the social interaction that we enjoy during gameplay. Whether you’re playing with family and friends or a new group of people you met five minutes ago, you’ll interact with them and (hopefully) enjoy their company. As issues of isolation become a serious health issue for our community of seniors, coming together over a game of Monopoly can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

I was surprised to learn that more and more older people are starting to play video games and that this trend has significant benefits.

Researchers from the University of Chicago have found that older people who play computer games may have better balance than those who don’t. At the end of the study, video game players were able to stand up from a seated position and walk faster than non-gamers.

Despite what our mothers told us when we were kids, watching a video monitor can actually improve a person’s vision. An Ontario study showed that older adults with cataracts can improve their vision when playing fast-paced games that cause rapid eye movements and require a lot of attention. They also discovered that fast-paced games can also cause a spike in adrenaline and dopamine, which is healthy for the brain.

A study from East Carolina University found that video games can help reduce depression and anxiety. Additionally, video games can reduce stress and help a person relax.

A study in Montreal divided healthy adults between the ages of 55 and 75 into three test groups. The first group was asked to play video games for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The second group received piano lessons at the same frequency as the players. The third group was given no special task to perform. After six months, the video game players had increases in gray matter in several areas of their brains and improvements in their short-term memory. The group of pianists saw their gray matter increase, but not as significantly as the players. The group that did not have a special task all had some level of brain atrophy compared to six months earlier.

Gambling can be fun and can be healthy.

Two websites offering online board games are and Both sites offer free and paid memberships and the ability to play dozens of games with your friends or with other players on the sites.

Tracy Arabian is Communications Manager at SeniorCare Inc., a local aging agency serving Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

Tracy Arabian is Communications Manager at SeniorCare Inc., a local aging agency serving Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

Comments are closed.