Benefits of Staying Social as You Age
We are pleased to kick-off a new series: Staying Social Later In Life. Over the next few weeks we will share ideas on what you can do to stay physically and socially active later in life. We’ll explore topics ranging from the brain health benefits of playing board games to the importance of making new friends as you grow older. Experts call this “productive aging.”
According to a 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, engaging in the right leisure activities can keep brain cells stimulated and cognitive skills intact longer. That combination reduces your risk for developing dementia. Leisure pastimes found to have brain health benefits include board games, dancing, and playing musical instruments.
We also know that activities such as volunteering to help others, spending time with the younger generations and learning new skills all help to keep you mentally and physically fit. In this four-part series, we will explore ways to learn more about each of these activities.
In week one of our series, we are digging in to the benefits of playing old-fashioned board games.
Playing Games the Good Old-Fashioned Way
In the pre-electronic game days, before Nintendo introduced Mario and a variety of Wii games to the world, multiple generations of families enjoyed playing games like Charades, Rummy, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and Checkers together. We now know board and card games that require strategy, concentration, math skills and memory help to exercise the brain. Game playing with family and friends can also help to increase feelings of belonging and connectedness. Both are an important part of successful aging.
Here are a few games that are not only fun but also have brain health benefits:
• Scrabble – Almost everyone has played this classic game. It involves strategizing your word choices and focusing on spelling words correctly to win. In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, Scrabble was shown to promote left-brain activity because it requires paying attention to detail and using short-term memory skills.
• Chess – While this board game is relatively easy to initially learn, mastering the game requires planning, memory skills, and concentration. It is another game that promotes left-brain activity.
• Backgammon – Another oldie that almost everyone can enjoy is Backgammon. According to a study by the Neurology Journal in England, playing Backgammon can help prevent or delay dementia because the game relies on sequencing. That helps increase cognitive skills.
• Checkers – Some consider this a game of chance while others believe it is a game of strategy and skill. Checkers is easy to learn and fun for people of all skill levels to enjoy.
• Mahjong – This game is less familiar to people. Mahjong is played with a set of 144 tiles that represent Chinese characters and symbols. It involves identifying patterns, as well as using logic and memory.
• Card games – Many card games offer the same cognitive benefits that board games do. When debating which game to play, opt for those exercise your memory, utilize math skills and require problem solving and concentration. Suggestions include Pinochle, Bridge, Rummy, Cribbage and Canasta. An active group of game-loving residents at The Bristal in North Woodmere routinely get together to enjoy Canasta and Mahjong.
• Charades – Some may argue that Charades doesn’t really offer the same kind of health benefit as the other games we’ve listed while others argue that it does. Besides the social benefits this often lively game offers, it also requires reasoning skills and concentration.
We hope these suggestions have given you some ideas on how to use game playing to connect with friends and loved ones. Adding a regular game day or game night to your schedule can help you stay socially engaged while promoting brain health and fitness.
Check back next week for the second part of our Staying Social Later In Life series. We’ll explore outdoor activities with social and health benefits for older adults.