Tag Archives: games

Do brain games offer protection against Alzheimer’s?

Every night I wind down by playing two games on my tablet: a crossword and a Jumble word puzzle. I’ve always enjoyed word puzzles. I inherited my love of the Jumble puzzles from my mother, who was a devoted player. One of the ways we bonded as she recovered from cancer surgery was working on Jumble puzzles together. My dad was an avid reader, but his love of words didn’t extend to games. It was particularly cruel when Alzheimer’s took away his favorite hobby of reading.

There are many apps and articles that promote “brain games” as a way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. While proponents of such games are enthusiastic about their potential in supporting cognitive health, the research so far is mixed when it comes to benefits.

One study that involved people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment found that crosswords helped support cognitive health more than other games, though the positive results were not dramatic.

There’s no harm in playing such games if it brings you comfort. I do notice that if I’m tired or not feeling well, I struggle with completing the puzzles as fast as I normally do. I like to challenge myself to complete the crosswords as fast as possible. For me, this means not stopping to ponder a clue that I’m stuck on; instead I keep going and complete as many other words as possible before coming back to the ones that stumped me.

While such games may not offer protective benefits against Alzheimer’s, we do know that doctors use a series of tests which could be considered game-like to help diagnose someone with the disease, such as word memory exercises. I’ve participated in a study which has me complete a series of games along with a cognitive questionnaire a few times per year. Doing word games as part of your daily routine could help you spot a decline in your cognitive abilities earlier than you might have noticed otherwise.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash.


Filed under Awareness & Activism

Trying to grab the elusive prize

I was browsing through some popular smartphone apps and saw one that was a prize claw game. I remember those enticing, frustrating machines from my childhood.

Normally, I would hit my parents up for a nickel or quarter and choose something from those toy and candy dispensing machines that are in the front of stores. Most times I would get a brightly-colored gumball that I could barely fit in my mouth. Sometimes I would get sour candy of some sort, which would come out in a rush from the dispenser, and would often go spilling over my tiny hands. I also collected dozens of tiny toys stuffed in plastic capsules from those vending machines. I always had the bad luck of getting something I already had.

The claw machine that I remember was located in a restaurant geared towards kids. It was a destination spot for birthday parties. I remember my parents and I going to get ice cream one hot summer afternoon. As we were leaving, the claw machine captured my attention. A little boy watched eagerly as his dad worked the claw and magically grabbed a stuffed animal. He squealed with delight and ran off to show his mom what hero Dad had captured.

I had doubts Dad could recreate that magic. Dad was not mechanically minded, and as it turns out, neither am I. As an adult, I would never attempt to work one of those claw machines, as I know I would just embarrass myself. Even though I was filled with doubt, I begged Dad to drop a quarter and win me something. He obliged, but was completely confused about the controls and how to work them. He managed to move the claw an inch and grab some air. Game over.

So much of our lives are spent going after the prize, but it’s the effort and the reason why we try at all that should be celebrated.

Leave a comment

Filed under Memories