People who play games – such as cards and board games – are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life, a study published in The Journals of Gerontology suggests. Those who regularly played non-digital games scored better on memory and thinking tests in their 70s, the research found.
Objectives: Playing analog games may be associated with better cognitive function but, to date, these studies have not had extensive longitudinal follow-up. The goal was to examine the association between playing games and change in cognitive function from age 11 to age 70, and from age 70 to 79.
Method: Participants were 1,091 nonclinical, independent, community-dwelling individuals all born in 1936 and residing in Scotland. General cognitive function was assessed at ages 11 and 70, and hierarchical domains were assessed at ages 70, 73, 76, and 79 using a comprehensive cognitive battery of 14 tests. Games playing behaviours were assessed at ages 70 and 76. All models controlled for early life cognitive function, education, social class, sex, activity levels, and health issues. All analyses were pre-registered.
Results: Higher frequency of playing games was associated with higher cognitive function at age 70, controlling for age 11 cognitive function, and the majority of this association could not be explained by control variables. Playing more games was also associated with less general cognitive decline from age 70 to age 79, and in particularly, less decline in memory ability. Increased games playing between 70 and 76 was associated with less decline in cognitive speed.