Board games and card games are fun to play with friends. But it seems these games may also help protect our brain function as we age. In a report published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences, Scottish researchers suggest that games may help protect seniors from cognitive decline.
This research supports what researchers and experts have suspected for years: that the more we use our cognitive skills, the more likely we are to retain them. That’s exactly why Marshall Pines, an assisted living and memory care community in Evans, Georgia, includes music, games, and other social activity in its programming for residents.
A team of researchers led by Drew Altschul of the University of Edinburgh found that people in their 70s who regularly play board games, card games, or word games score higher on tests of memory and thinking skills than those who don’t play those games. Further, people who increased their game-playing were found to be more likely to maintain those memory and thinking skills as they aged.
Many researchers and experts who study dementia and Alzheimer’s believe that engaging in challenging or complex tasks, or even strategy games, require the exercise of cognitive functions that help protect seniors from cognitive decline. Similar to working out a muscle, exercising one’s brain by playing challenging mental games can help maintain our “mental muscle” as we age.
The experienced staff at Marshall Pines has created a specialized activities calendar for its residents that includes weekly table games and word games in addition to other research-backed programming to support residents’ mental health.
Research also suggests that music can have incredible benefits for residents experiencing memory challenges. According to the Mayo Clinic, listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Often, someone experiencing memory challenges will retain musical memories, as the key brain areas linked to musical memory are often relatively untouched. The benefits of music are often amplified when combined with movement like dance or clapping along to the beat. Music can also help residents relax and connect with their neighbors and caregivers.
At Marshall Pines, residents enjoy music together every single day, and the community focuses on providing era-specific music to bring back fond memories and decrease anxiety. Residents can enjoy dedicated music sessions daily, including smooth jazz time, spiritual songs, and sing-alongs.
Aside from the benefits that the games and music provide, research suggests that simply socializing with others can provide tremendous benefits for those experiencing memory challenges. Socialization can help slow cognitive decline; a strong social network appears to help individuals retain more memories than peers who are more isolated. Socialization also boosts self-esteem, which in turn supports better sleep habits, healthier eating habits, and more interest in exercise. Regular socialization also provides a sense of inclusion as well as a strengthened sense of time and place.
Residents at Marshall Pines have multiple opportunities every day of the week to socialize with their peers and the community staff. They can participate in one of the multiple scheduled activities, and they can also socialize at mealtimes or in common areas. Whether residents are playing games, enjoying music, or participating in another activity altogether, the strong social support at a memory care community like Marshall Pines can provide cognitive benefits beyond simply engaging in these activities alone.
To learn more about residency or to schedule a tour of Marshall Pines, contact our friendly team today.