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Board games, cards might protect thinking skills: study

Yahtzee!

People who play non-digital games, such as cards and board games, are more likely to score better on memory and thinking tests in their 70s than their peers.

That’s according to psychologists at the University in Edinburgh, who also found that a behaviour change in later life could still make a difference.

They tested more than 1000 people aged 70 for memory, problem solving, thinking speed and general thinking ability – and repeated those same thinking tests every three years until the participants were aged 79.

Participants were also quizzed on how often they played games like cards, chess, bingo or crosswords at age 70 and 76.

Those who increased game playing in later years were found to have experienced less decline in thinking skills, particularly in memory function and thinking speed, in their 70s.

One of the researchers, Dr Drew Altschul, said the 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 behaviour in terms of reducing cognitive decline,” Altschul said.

Professor Ian Deary, director of the Edinburgh Lothian Birth Cohorts, the pool from which participants were recruited, said his team and others were narrowing down the kinds of activities that might help to keep people sharp in older age.

“In our Lothian sample, it is not just general intellectual and social activity, it seems; it is something in this group of games that has this small but detectable association with better cognitive ageing,” Deary said. “It would be good to find out if some of these games are more potent than others.”

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