Looking for a hobby to take up during the new year? Consider playing more board games, word puzzles, and cards. A new study from the University of Edinburg found that people who increased their game playing during their 70s were more likely to have a sharper memory and better critical thinking skills. Psychologists tested more than 1,000 70-year-old adults for memory, problem solving, thinking speed, and general thinking ability. The participants completed the same thinking tests every three years until they turned 79 to assess their cognitive ability.
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Researchers used statistical models to understand the relationship between a person's level of game playing and their thinking skills. "These latest findings add to evidence that being more engaged in activities during the life course might be associated with better thinking skills in later life. For those in their 70s or beyond, another message seems to be that playing non-digital games may be a positive behavior in terms of reducing cognitive decline," says Dr. Drew Altschul of the University of Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, according to ScienceDaily.
Additional lifestyle factors that researchers considered were participants' education, socio-economic status, and activity levels to understand any behavioral or mental changes over the course of nine years.
While more research is needed, researchers believe that the decline of cognitive skills in old age is not inevitable by participating in these types of mind games. "The connection between playing board games and other non-digital games later in life and sharper thinking and memory skills adds to what we know about steps we can take to protect our cognitive health, including not drinking excess alcohol, being active and eating a healthy diet," says Caroline Abraham, Charity Director at Age UK.