How chess can help our elderly people ?

What is Dementia ?

Dementia is an illness which affects the brain, causing the brain cells to die at a faster rate than normal. It is NOT normal ageing. As a result, the mental abilities of the person with dementia declines. This leads to failing memory, deterioration of intellectual function and personality changes.

Based on the statistics by Singapore Board

This statistical appendix presents individual estimates of prevalence and incidence for each of the economies included in the Asia Pacific region, for the period 2005 to 2050. Particularly, the prevalence of dementia in Singapore, those aged 65 years and above in year 2005 was 22,000. By 2020 it is projected the figure will increase to 53,000 and by 2050 the projected figure will further increase to 187,000.

What is the above data to do with Chess ?

Chess is a particularly good brain builder. It is a fairly easy game to learn. It takes a little practice but the possibilities of play are endless.

Could this nearly 1,800 year-old game hold a key to keeping your thinking healthy and engaged? Could chess or other mind sports be one of the “prevention” to ward off dementia in Singapore ?

Playing games like chess can stimulate our minds, increase our social interactions with others and possibly reduce stress, but when it comes to reducing risk of Dementia, the type, variety and frequency of the games we play is key.

Chess seems like a treatment that works. In fact, people over the age of 75 that partake in leisure activities that stimulate the brain were less likely to develop signs of dementia. Research shows that chess affects specific areas of the brain and the stimulation will shift with the problems that a chess player faces during the game.

We all know that games can be fun and challenging, but if we are interested in actually maintaining brain fitness, then mind sports (Chess) stimulate all six cognitive areas of the brain at the same time and are the most beneficial.

The six cognitive areas  are:

  • Short-term memory, used when we remember information shortly after it’s been understood.
  • Long-term memory, used when we recall something from the vast store of information that’s in our brain.
  • Language, the use and form of words.
  • Calculation has two definitions. First, calculation is the use of numbers. The other form of calculation involves assessing the risks, possibilities or effects of a course of action. Playing chess is another way to exercise calculation skills.
  •  Visual-spatial, referring to our visual perception of objects.
  •  Critical thinking, our ability to analyze and evaluate situations.

The emergence of mind sports like Chess as a tool to reduce our risk of Dementia is based on using and exercising all six cognitive areas of the brain and continuing the program over a period of time. Chess touches every one of those areas.

The day may not be far off when doctors recommend a game of chess along with the physical exercise and a healthy diet for older adults.