If you were asked to picture someone playing a video game, you would probably envision a teenager with a controller clutched in their hands, leaning forward and staring intently at a screen. However, an important part of that image is changing. A growing number of seniors are involved in gaming, and it’s not just about having fun. In fact, there are benefits to playing games when it comes to keeping your mind sharp!

Video Games for Seniors – The Benefits

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 virtual “neighborhoods” of increasing size and complete errands of increasing complexity as the game progresses. During the game, the players walked in place and moved their bodies as they played. 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.

study by scientists at the University of California-Irvine found that playing 3-D video games can boost memory recollection for people who were losing memory due to age or the onset of dementia.

To clarify, the game is Super Mario 3-D which requires navigating intricate settings like those discussed above. The increased complexity and sensory stimulation of the 3-D games boosted the functioning of the hippocampus, which is the part of the 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 interests 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 adopt 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 how quickly you make moves. In addition to improving response speed, this game enhances some cognitive abilities.

It’s Not All Fun and Games

Video games can be addictive, and the repetitive motions of a game can cause physical strains. 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 or 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 such as learning new things, seeking out new opportunities and friends, eating nutritious food and getting quality sleep.

Bottom line? Take care of yourself – mind and body. And enjoy playing some of these video games for seniors to keep your mind sharp!

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