mental-health-gameA fully functioning memory is crucial to independent living as we enter old age.  Recent studies suggest that giving older adults games to play can significantly strengthen their memory, and therefore support both their every day functioning and independence.

A study, led by researchers from the University of Toronto, found that senior citizens who played a simple cognitive training game doubled their subsequent performance on propsective memory tasks, which deals with our ability to remember and carry out planned activities during the day.

“As the world’s population ages, it is becoming increasingly important to develop ways to support successful prospective memory functioning so that older adults can continue to live independently at home without the need for assisted care,” the team say.

Gaming your way to better mental health

Similar findings emerged from a recent study from researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.  The study, which was funded by Alzheimer’s Society is the largest trial of the impact online games can have on mental health.

The game required players to undertake three distinct reasoning tasks and three problem solving tasks.  Each player was encouraged to play the game for at least 10 minutes at a time, with their mental health tested before the experiment, after six weeks of participation, and then again after three and six months respectively.  The tests gauged the ability of participants in run of the mill daily behaviours such as answering the telephone and using public transport.

After six months of playing, there were significant improvements in the scores in both reasoning and verbal learning tests, with the biggest improvements achieved when participants played at least five times per week.

Whilst a degree of decline in mental performance is to be expected as we age, there are nonetheless approaches we can use to slow that decline.

Dr Anne Corbett from the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, said: “The impact of a brain training package such as this one could be extremely significant for older adults who are looking for a way to proactively maintain their cognitive health as they age. The online package could be accessible to large numbers of people, which could also have considerable benefits for public health across the UK.

“Our research adds to growing evidence that lifestyle interventions may provide a more realistic opportunity to maintain cognitive function, and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life, particularly in the absence of any drug treatments to prevent dementia.”

Just as with the Canadian study, the next step is to test the games out in a live environment.  If you would like to learn more about the prospects of working with King’s on this research, please contact our research and development office.