As the old parable goes, if you do not use it, you lose it. While this venerable story was likely something intended by its ancient authors to discourage laziness, the saying is still highly relevant today with respect to our minds and bodies. In particular for our brains, not using our minds on a regular basis can lead to faster degradation of our mental abilities as we age.
This link between using our brains and our brains working better for longer is supported by research. The research has shown that those with a higher education are often able to delay the onset of dementia as they age. However, even if we do not have the benefit of higher education, it is almost never too late to start using our brains in order to improve our mental sharpness and to retain brain health. All it takes is a willingness to spend some time on activities that will “flex” the brain.
There are in fact many, many ways to continue to keep our brains sharp as we age including learning a language, maintaining a good social life, reading, writing, taking a course and playing games. In particular for games, some individuals can enjoy board games, word games and puzzles. For others with less interest in more traditional games, some video games may help to keep the brain sharp.
In recent years, brain games have become increasingly popular both because people enjoy them and because some of the science has demonstrated the benefits that are achieved by playing such games on a regular basis. Even in some medical facilities, rehabilitation specialists are helping those suffering partial paralysis as a result of a stroke by getting them to play a form of game in order to retrain the mind.
In the market place, those studying trends expect the brain game space to be worth $5 billion by 2015 and numerous companies are trying to get a piece of the pie. Nintendo was among the first with its Brain Age game products. However, now the Xbox has its own Brain Challenge game and there are numerous brain games for the popular iPod and IPad products. As well, there are web sites like Lumosity that provide online subscription services to allow members to play and monitor the improvements in their skills over time.
What this means to all of us is that there is now a great variety of games to play in order to potentially maintain and hone our mental capabilities. However, as stated previously, only some of the science supports the idea that brain games have benefits. Other research has found that while you can get good at playing a particular brain game, the benefits may not extend beyond becoming good at playing that specific game.