Cheap Fun for Grandparents and Kids


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Perhaps the greatest worry many people have about aging isn't that their knees or vision will fail — it's that their minds will. According to the World Health Organization, over 50 million people suffer from dementia worldwide, with 10 million new cases every year. The good news is that there may be ways to stave off that mental decline — and at least one is a potential bonding experience with your grandchildren.

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A group of researchers at UC San Francisco studied the impact of a specially designed video game, which in part involved using a joystick to steer a car down a winding road, on players over age 60. These older people, who played the game three times a week for a month, saw a boost in neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for cognitive control), working memory (the ability to hold information in the mind until it needs to be used), and vigilance (the ability to stay focused for long periods). 

Remarkably, the benefits lasted even after the seniors stopped playing the game. Tested six months later, they still scored higher on multitasking than 20-somethings who had played only once.

Of course, you probably don't have a specially designed video game — which is why you might like the results of a North Carolina State University study that found that playing World of Warcraft (an online multiplayer video game your grandkids definitely know) helped some seniors make gains in spatial ability and focus. 

Sure, crossword puzzles can delay the onset of cognitive decline, but if you want to give your brain a boost and spend some quality time with the younger members of your family, go ahead and pick up a video game controller. You might have more fun than you expect.

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