Get your brain firing on all cylinders with a challenging board game or electronic game.
By Jeanie McKay
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
“” George Bernard Shaw
Stroll through any resort or campground, and you’ll likely agree that most RVers are sociable by nature. You’ll find people huddled together around fire pits and picnic tables everywhere you look. Chances are, you also will see plenty of spirited RVers playing board games. Games have become powerful social lubricants.
After all, sharing joy and fun strengthens the ties of community and promotes bonding. But have you ever stopped to think that tossing dice, buying real estate in Marvin Gardens, and moving pawns around a game board could improve your health?
Medical research studies report that the belly laughter associated with play forces participants to breathe deeply. This decreases blood pressure and ultimately causes relaxation. In addition, laughter also tunes the immune system, and it may reduce pain and speed up healing. But equally important, the mental exercise associated with the challenge can sharpen the mind. Researchers also report that games can potentially delay or reduce the symptoms of age-related dementia.
How Can Games Improve Your Brain?
As you age, the little three-pound mental engine beneath your skull begins to show signs of oxidation and wear and tear. Just as you have to run your RV to keep it working in tip-top shape when needed, you must also fire your cognitive cylinders on a regular basis.
Healthfully aging brains require novelty, variety, and constant challenge. Neuroscientists report that playing games that require cognitive effort, as opposed to passive activities such as watching TV, can keep the neurons (brain cells) and circuits on both sides of your brain firing effectively. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that older people who engage in frequent brain-stimulating activities are less likely to develop dementia. In addition, the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center reports that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is cut by 47 percent for people who participate in game-related activities.
Board Games, Not Bored Games
Any board game can potentially benefit your brain. However, the best are those that unlock your recall skills, force you to analyze patterns, and prompt you to think strategically and creatively. Many RVers tend to play classic favorites such as Mexican Train, Pegs and Jokers, and Scrabble over and over. They’re fun and familiar, but your brain has an instinctual urge “” almost like thirst or hunger “” for new experiences. When you provide your brain with steady doses of novelty, variety, and challenge, it will return the favor by sprouting new brain cells and connections in certain areas of the brain (particularly the area responsible for memory), regardless of your age.
To excite your brain and work its various regions, don’t stick solely to the same old, faithful contests. Instead, consider stuffing your motorhome shelves with new ones. You will force your brain to work as you learn fresh rules, options, and strategies. So, don’t shy away from a challenge. Challenge is the operative word, after all. No-brainer games that rely on luck alone don’t do a thing for you.
Games For Everyone
Consider building a library of diverse games. In today’s economy, board games are relatively inexpensive, and each can provide hours of entertainment.
It’s amazing how many different kinds of board games are available now. Check the game aisles of your favorite store, or do an online search “” and some online shopping. Are you a chocoholic? Let “Chocolate-Opoly” whet your appetite as you feed your mind. Are you a wine snob? Then pop a cork and play the “Wine Wars!” trivia game. Would you like to travel the United States in an RV without spending your children’s inheritance on fuel? Then think about playing “Rally Ho! The Travel Trivia Game for RVers.” Are you thrilled by whodunits? Enjoy unraveling clues and fingering culprits as you play classic “Clue” or the new “Simply Suspects” game. Need to find some humor during menopause? Cool off while playing “Hot Flash! The Menopause Game.”
Older adults are using electronic games more often. The formerly mindless “” and often violent “” electronic games are taking a backseat to brain-stimulating games. After decades of exercising players’ thumbs, video game companies are now concerning themselves with exercising minds.
Since most RVers now travel with laptops, consider that the newer-version video games offer some amazing benefits. As you play, you will use your brain in multiple ways. You will ignite your short-term memory, and you will often spark your visual acuity, spatial reasoning, logic abilities, dexterity, and creativity skills.
What electronic games should you consider? Why not throw out all notions of what is “appropriate” for your age or gender and just rekindle the youthful spirit and interests you once had? Look for something that appears interesting or fun. Whether you pick social simulations or mythical adventures or anything in between, you will be surprised by how many you will enjoy.
Although electronic games are more expensive and require gadgetry, they offer some benefits that are worth considering. For example, technology has created highly realistic games. The games tend to stress competence over competition. In the majority of games, you compete against yourself rather than another player.
Whether the contest is oriented toward sports, facts, history, critical thinking, or spatial awareness, you will be forced to make rapid decisions. Computer games offer increasing levels of challenge. Once you master a challenge, sophisticated computer games can reset the difficulty level, which ups the ante for your brain. This may eliminate potential boredom that takes place when games are too easy, as well as the frustration that can result from games that are too difficult.
While early-generation computer games allowed players to passively click buttons and move knobs, interactive inventions such as Nintendo’s Wii game series add the bonus of physical movement. Physical exercise powers your brain with oxygen, and you’ll feel great from the laughter that comes when you challenge your friends.
How Can You Lose?
Games provide a fun way to keep your brain activated. Rigorous stimulation combined with good nutrition, a positive attitude, and physical exercise provides healthful doses of octane for your brain. Discover brain-boosting games that you enjoy, and integrate them into your routines for the rest of your life. Whether you win or lose a particular match, whenever you play games, you always win!
Jeanie McKay is a corporate trainer and geriatric wellness specialist. She presents “Octane for the Brain” seminars at FMCA conventions and is the creator of “Rally Ho! The Travel Trivia Game for RVers,” available from MindZone Publishing Inc. at www.rallyho-rvgame.com.