Will This Video Game Help Aging Parents to Drive Safer Longer?

We’re reading more about research studies leading to “games” involving “Brain Training.” We see and hear the advertisements for ways to improve memory, alertness etc.  Is that a reason we find more and more older people hoping to keep their minds sharp by playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles and even signing up to learn a new language?

One of the latest games to come out of the research is a video game, Road Tour. I can’t recommend–or not recommend–it; but it’s an interesting addition to games for older people. Its focus is worth knowing about. It involves vision, specifically expanding one’s field of vision, which evidently tends to shrink as we age. A positive outcome of this game is that it could keep older people driving safely longer. Wouldn’t that contribute to independence and happiness and thus–by deduction– help parents age well?

A professor of public health at the University of Iowa, Fredric Wolinsky, and his team tested the mental benefits of playing Road Tour for people 50 years or older, compared to the benefits from solving computerized crossword puzzles. They divided participants into four groups, separating them into sets of people 50-64 and people over 65. Three groups used the Road Tour game repeatedly. The fourth group was given computerized crossword puzzles.

It’s reported that mental and perceptual benefits began to show up after only 10 hours of play.  A year later those who had done crossword puzzles showed a decline in their useful field of view, while those who had played Road Tour for 10 hours were protected against this decline, actually showing a slight increase in their field of vision.

The effects of Road Tour were the same for both age groups: those 50-64 and for those over 65. Other measure of cognitive abilities such as concentration, the ability to shift from one mental task to another, and the speed at which new information is processed suggest that Road Tour players were protected from 1.5 to over six years of decline.

For those wanting to read more about Road Tour, click this link from the UK Daily Mail on-line version (note: the video demo at the end of the article doesn’t seem to work).

Continuing with the subject of “brain training:” While learning a new language was never touted to improve field of vision, interestingly a recent report suggests that speaking a second language later in life–in other words, learning to speak another language when older, doesn’t offer the same benefits to brain functioning that early bilingualism does. “The brain changes were really seen in the older group who had been bilingual for most of their lives,” according to the article (see link above).

We never know what new research will produce; we do know sometimes there’s a significantly helpful result.

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