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Playing online brain games can boost seniors' cognitive skills

Researchers say the games keep our mental muscles in shape well into old age

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Photo (c) skynesher - Getty Images
A new study has revealed a creative way for older consumers to stay mentally sharp: online games. 

According to researchers from the University of California at Irvine, seniors who play online brain games can boost their cognitive skills to be just as sharp as those decades younger than them. 

“The brain is not a muscle, but like our bodies, if we work out and train it, we can improve our mental performance,” said researcher Mark Steyvers. “We discovered that people in the upper ranges who completed specific training tasks were able to beef up their brain’s ability to switch between tasks in the game at a level similar to untrained 20- and 30-year-olds.” 

Working out your brain

To see how the online games improved seniors’ cognitive skills, the researchers analyzed data from Lumosity, an online system that offers consumers several different games that are all designed with the intention of staying mentally sharp. 

Though the site has millions of users, the researchers were able to isolate findings from older participants, so they randomly selected results from 1,000 different players. 

The goal was to see how those in the older age bracket -- between 71 and 80 years old -- who played the games regularly compared to those in a wider age bracket -- between 21 and 80 years old -- who didn’t play as often. 

After comparing the two groups, the researchers found that older players who made the brain games a habit were performing just as well or better than those who were younger and not making a habit out of the online games. 

These findings were positive, as it showed that older consumers’ mental tenacity can stay strong through later life, so long as those muscles are being flexed consistently. 

“Medical advances and improved lifestyles are allowing us to live longer,” said Steyvens. “It’s important to factor brain health into that equation. We show that with consistent upkeep, cognitive youth can be retained well into our golden years.” 

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