Senior Games Offer Cognitive Gains

 On July 8th I wrote about a new game, Road Tour, that researchers find restores cognitive processing speed and improves field of vision. Peripheral vision evidently shrinks as people age and affects safe driving. Here are details, plus a video, from the UK’s Daily Mail on-line:
Game on: Playing the Road Tour game could prove to be beneficial

Three months later (9/4/13) several publications inform us that the scientific magazine, Nature, is publishing findings that cognitive scientists say: “are a significant development in understanding how to strengthen old brains.” (NY Times 9/4/13) plus a snippet: “Cognitive scientists have found that a simple game that forced players to juggle two different tasks, helped players improve the short-term memory and long-term focus of older adults. Researchers said those as old as  80 began to show neurological patterns of people in their 20s.” (NY Times 9/9/13.) Read the complete 9/4/13 NY Times article:  

Doesn’t it sound like the above games hold significant promise for older people? Older people, of course, need access to a computer.

Googling or Yahooing “brain games” and “games for seniors” brings forth a proliferation of games from which to choose.  Many enterprising people are jumping on the “Senior Games” band wagon.

Soon perhaps, a reputable company or organization will find it financially advantageous to rate the games, to help us know which claims of aging brain improvement are valid. For now we must do our own homework and stay current with news from reputable sources–as we strive to help parents age well.

The progressively challenging video game NeuroRacer requires players to navigate a winding mountain road.  Performance improved in those who played more often.

Gazzaley lab U of San Francisco

Top Photo: UK Daily Mail on-line
Botton Photo: Boston Globe


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.