What are brain games?
One of the most primal fears humans share is the fear of losing their identify and memory but as we age, people are increasingly like to experience some level of memory loss. While some people may have trouble with their short term memory, others may experience the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the United States population of adults over 55 continues to dramatically increase with several savvy technology companies developing “brain games” designed to sooth the common fear of cognitive decline. Marketed as fun programs, brain game manufacturers frequently claim that their products are scientifically proven to increase memory and attention skills.

Types of brain games
Brain training games generally consist of a variety of puzzles or logic challenges that are designed to be fun, engaging the player to complete higher levels and more difficult challenges. Brain games may feature spacial ability, word play or definitions, music recognition or mathematics to challenge a player’s linguistics, spatial or logic intelligence as well as improve working memory. Most commonly designed for computers, smart phones and tablets, some brain games are also available as flash cards or for video game systems, such as Nintendo.

Big Audience + Big Claims = Big Business
With an aging population and the promise to help stave off mental acuity illnesses, it is no surprise the brain game industry is currently worth more than $300 million per year. Add in the increased popularity of mobile devices, and there is no end in sight for this market. One of the most popular brain game companies, Lumosity, claims to have more than 40 million members using their website. And it’s not just seniors who might benefit from brain games, the products are also marketed toward young children to help give them a leg up on the learning ladder as well as high schoolers to help them prepare for the SATs.

Although brain game manufacturers are not allowed claim that using their products will cure mental acuity diseases, the companies have been permitted to advertise that their products can help improve memory, concentration, problem solving skills and which could lead to a positive outlook on life. Some companies, such as Lumosity, cite research studies to advertise their products. However, the scientific validity of some of the research has been questioned by experts.

Do brain games work?
While the evidence piles up that brain games do not significantly increase intelligence in children or healthy adults, with respected publications such as The New Yorker and the University of Oslo publishing research studies that demonstrate the benefits of brain training are short lived, there is some evidence that brain training programs may delay the onset of dementia or improve its symptoms.

The British Journal of Psychiatry and the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) have reported that studies have found that brain training exercises do improve cognition in seniors with dementia and that the results were comparable with those found in dementia drug trials.

Should you try brain training games?
Whether you try AARP brain exercises, Luminosity, Alzheimer’s Association of Australia app, BrainyApp or any of the other numerous brain training apps, these are great ways to keep your mind active. However, you need not rush out to purchase a product or mobile device to reap the benefits of mental exercise. There are plenty of free methods that may work just as well as commercial games, including working on crossword and Sudoku puzzles as well as playing chess or other games that involve memory and strategy, such as Trivial Pursuit and bridge.

No matter what method you choose, challenging your brain on a regular basis may help you ward off dementia and improve your personal interactions.

If the time has come that you or a family member is no longer able to maintain an independent lifestyle, contact ElderLink to discuss elder care services and options available throughout California.