Older adults who play digital puzzle games have the same memory abilities as people in their 20s, a new study has shown.
The study, from the University of York, also found that adults aged 60 and over who play digital puzzle games had a greater ability to ignore irrelevant distractions, but older adults who played strategy games did not show the same improvements in memory or concentration
Working memory is thought to peak between the ages of 20 and 30 before slowly declining as a person gets older.
"A lot of research has focused on action games, as it is thought that reacting quickly, keeping track of targets and so on helps attention and memory, but our new analysis shows that the action elements do not seem to offer significant benefits to younger adults,” said Dr Fiona McNab from the University of York's department of Psychology
The study, published in the journal Heliyon, included older and younger adults playing digital games that they would normally play in their ‘real lives’.
This resulted in a wide range of games to be tested alongside a digital experiment that required participants to memorise images, whilst being distracted.
“Puzzle games for older people had this surprising ability to support mental capabilities to the extent that memory and concentration levels were the same as a 20 year-olds who had not played puzzle games,” said Dr Joe Cutting from the University of York's Department of Computer Science
Older people were however more likely to forget elements committed to memory whilst being distracted if they only played strategy games, and young people were less successful at focusing attention if they played only puzzle games.
Future study could focus on why there is a difference between impacts of types of games depending on the age of a player and if this is connected to how the brain stores information as people age, the authors wrote