Alzheimer's - Keeping The Brain Active Alzheimer's - Keeping The Brain Active
Probably the biggest fear any older American has is the threat of Alzheimer's disease. This devastating illness leaves a person disoriented and leads to eventual death. Scientists and doctors know little about Alzheimer's. There is no known cure at this time. They DO know that a person who stays intellectually active can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by one third. Studies have shown that mentally active people have lower rates and later onset of symptoms for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Here we discuss Alzheimer's and what a person can do to delay the onset.
What Is Alzheimer's?
We all get forgetful as we age. It is a normal part of the aging process and should not be looked up as Alzheimer's. What Alzheimer's does is this:
- Causes loss of memory
- A loss of ability to think and speak clearly
- A loss of ability to perform everyday tasks
- Visible changes in behavior
Alzheimer's Disease was discovered in 1906 by German physician Alois Alzheimer. It is a progressive and fatal brain disease. It is much more prevalent today because we live much longer than in prior centuries.
Keeping The Brain Active
Studies show that keeping intellectually stimulated and in an inquisitive frame of mind does a lot to offset the devastation of Alzheimer's. When you watch television, your brain waves are in the alpha state, just like when you are sleeping. The TV is doing your thinking for you. You can offset this by playing simple games. Any activity that makes you think is beneficial, such as crossword and find-a-word puzzles.
Some Simple Games
With the advent of the Internet, there are hundreds of sites online that can offer the senior hours of fun play. Let's make a list:
Here's Checkers from the Dark Fish web site. A classic game.
André Heuner's Chess from Germany has no help section; the site assumes you know how to play. You are white - drag the piece you wish to move to your chosen square. Controls in the lower right of the board allow you to "take back" moves and get hints.
- Mah Jongg
Green Dragon Mah Jongg. Human versus the computer.
Free Online Cribbage card game
- Gin Rummy
Sancho's Gin Rummy. Play Gin Rummy against the computer.
- Solitaire - 14 Variations!
14 different ways to play Solitaire from "Idiots Delight"
Video gaming is no longer for hyped-up teenagers. A lot of seniors are finding that playing video games not only helps keep them sharp, but exercises hand/eye coordination. In fact, several big companies have targeted this very niche. "Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day" was recently released by Nintendo for its handheld Nintendo DS device. Available for $20, it has an interface that is different than most games. It "reads" like a book, making it much more intuitive for older people. It is the first in a series of games that are being targeted towards the senior market, although they are appropriate for ages 12 and up. The mascot, or in-game help, is the disembodied head of Japanese neurologist Ryuta Kawashima, whose theories helped create Brain Age. Features include numbers-related tasks, a handwriting-recognition section and other features common to a video game of this sort. The program is not without issues -- some of the voice recognition does not work well, and the interface can be difficult to master.
Studies conducted at Fundació ACE, Institut Català de Neurociències Aplicades in Barcelona, Spain, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that video games and computer-related tasks do indeed help patients in the first early stages of Alzheimer's. The results show that the group participating in computer-related tasks as well as 2.5 to 3.5 hours of cognitive stimulation tasks, musical therapy, arts and crafts, physical activity and programs that reinforced daily living activities did very well, with retention as long as 24 weeks. This is good news for those who visit a senior center on a daily basis that offers such activities.
Alzheimer's is a fatal disease. There is no cure, and medication only eases the living between onset and death. If seniors take the time to spend an hour or two with online games and other activities, they can benefit greatly.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.