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Seniors increasingly have joined the gamer ranks, especially since the COVID-10 pandemic. But although many may play games on their tablets or devices to reduce boredom just for fun, the activity also could be good for them.

Playing digital puzzle games could improve older adults’ memory ability to be on par with people in their 20s, when working memory abilities are at their peak, a new study shows. In addition to memory improvement, the seniors who played puzzle games were better able to avoid being frequently distracted. 

The information also could be useful for creating spaces and activities within long-term care as companies aim to develop toys and games for the senior market. 

The study, conducted by the University of York, involved collecting data on both younger and older adults; the latter group actually spent more time playing games than their younger counterparts, the study authors said.

Somewhat surprisingly, those findings are specific to puzzle games, whereas “strategy” games did not show similar memory improvements, the study authors stated. They speculated that finding could be because some strategy games aimed at older adults are designed to be easier. In addition, some “hybrid” games defied easy categorization, the researchers noted. 

Video gaming — anything played on a digital interface, from an old-school GameBoy console to a smartphone — has increased by 30% among older adults over the past six years, up to 52 million participants in 2022, the AARP has reported

Even before the pandemic, experts were touting the cognitive boosts to older adults that could come from gaming.

In fact, some nursing homes, such as Lorien Health Services’ facilities in Maryland, are experimenting with game shows; in this instance, a resident-tailored variation of “Wheel of Fortune,” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reported earlier this year.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living