If you were asked to picture someone playing a video game, you would probably envision a teenager with a controller clutched in his hands, leaning forward and staring intently at a screen. That picture is changing. More and more seniors are involved in gaming, and it’s not just because video games are fun. In fact, there are benefits to playing games to keep your mind sharp.

Seniors and Video Games – The Benefits 

Scientists have researched how video games affect the brain. Although not all agree on a link between playing these games and enhanced brain function, some studies support that idea.

Scientists at the University of California-San Francisco tested senior adults using a new game called Labyrinth-VR. This game requires players to move through “neighborhoods” of increasing size and complete errands of increasing complexity as the game progresses. During the test, the players walked in place and moved their bodies as they navigated the game.  That physical movement increased cerebral blood flow, which is often associated with improved general cognitive performance.

The results? The seniors showed a marked improvement in high-fidelity memory—the ability to tell apart new objects from similar ones viewed before. In fact, their high-fidelity memory was on par with players in their 20s.

The finding is considered a powerful example of how stimulation of an older brain can reverse some of the decline that occurs with age.

A study by scientist at the University of California-Irvine found that playing 3-D video games can boost memory recollection for people who were losing memory as they aged or from the onset of dementia.

To clarify, an example of a 3-D game is Super Mario 3-D, which requires navigating intricate settings discussed above. (Angry Birds is an example of a 2-D game.) The increased complexity and sensory stimulation of the 3-D games aided the hippocampus, which is the part of that brain that regulates our motivation, emotion, learning and memory.

Best Games to Keep Your Mind Sharp

There are many video games to choose from, depending on your interest and abilities. If you are new to gaming, you may want to start with a simpler game and work your way up to more challenging ones.

Check with family and friends who play for their recommendations and suggestions.

As you become more comfortable, try games that require multiple skills and higher levels to keep your brain challenged, such as:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons features a storyline where players are put in the role of mayor of a town full of animals. You can customize the appearance of different characters and participate in game activities.

Minecraft is a game you can play with your grandchildren. The game allows your world to become whatever you like. You can build structures or fight villains – the choice is yours!

Super Mario 3-D World allows you to travel through colorful worlds in your quest to rescue the character Princess Peach. The game involves problem-solving skills and using memory.

Klondike is set in Alaska’s Gold Rush era, and you are there to claim your stake. The game includes quests, puzzles, and many tasks.

Tetris is highly dependent on the speed of action in people. In addition to improving response speed, this game enhances some cognitive abilities.

It’s Not Just About Playing Games

Video games can be addictive, and the repetitive motions of a game can cause physical problems. Enjoy the games, but don’t be consumed by them.

Playing video games to keep your mind sharp does include some brain-boosting practices. Brain health involves socialization, and you can do that by competing in a game with an opponent/friend. Exercise is another vital element for maintaining brain health, and certain Wii exercise games may help as well. But there is more to maintaining your mind than playing video games.

Studies show there are a variety of habits and activities that contribute to maintaining mental sharpness: Learn new things, seek out new opportunities and friends, eat nutritious food and get good quality sleep.

Take care of yourself, mind and body. And enjoy playing games to keep your mind sharp!

Discover more fun ways to keep your mind sharp at Bethesda’s Alzheimer’s & dementia blog.

With 133 years of experience, Bethesda has become a leader in senior care, offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing. To see if memory care is right for your family, tour any of our communities, including Bethesda Dilworth, Bethesda Meadow, Bethesda Southgate, and Bethesda Hawthorne Place. After meeting with our residents and highly trained staff, you will instantly feel at home.