Stop Playing Those Mind Games?!?

Example of a Lumosity Game

Brain teasers and mind games sure seem like a good way to keep your mind sharp. In fact, in a recent study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics, it was found that cognitive exercises help older adults hold on to improvements in their reasoning skills and processing speed for up to 10 years. If this is true, than why are companies like Lumos Labs (creator of the “brain-training” program, Lumosity), being sued for falsely claiming that the program is “beneficial for brain health”?

In it’s advertising, Lumos Labs touts that Lumosity delays age-related cognitive decline and protects against mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. They also claim that it reduces cognitive impairment associated with health conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and ADHD, and that scientific studies proved these benefits. The company advertised on TV and radio announcements (and used hundreds of Google Ad Words, including “dementia,” “Alzheimer’s,” “memory,” “cognition,” and “PTSD”) to advertise that training on their games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” Lumosity games are sold both online and via mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.

Lumosity Couldn’t Back Up It’s Claims
According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

The creators and marketers of Lumosity recently agreed to settle the Federal Trade Commission charges that allege that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims. As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

Why Don’t Games Like Lumosity Keep Your Mind Sharp?
Games like Lumosity target very specific cognitive abilities, but they “don’t transfer to clarity of thinking, problem solving, planning — all the complex skills that really matter,” explains Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, chief director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of Make Your Brain Smarter.

A big reason the FTC went after Lumos Labs is to protect consumers, because desperate people are very vulnerable to exploitation by ads for these types of so-called brain-improvement games.  And despite all the ads for various drugs aimed at Alzheimers patients and other dementia victims, most experts agree that they all lack any real evidence of effectiveness in slowing the progression of the disease.
To keep your mind sharp, research has shown — over and over again — two activities to be worth your time — aerobic exercise and non-repetitive mental stimulation.  When it comes to exercise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week (which can include brisk walking, hiking, biking etc.). Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a fitness program.

Keep Your Mind Off Autopilot
Along with physical activity, your brain needs mental stimulation to stay fit. And when it comes to mental stimulation, changing things up often is important. Why? According to Dr. Karen Li, head of Concordia University’s laboratory for adult development and cognitive aging, the more you use your mind to perform a task — whether it’s cooking your favorite dish or driving to the supermarket — the less effort your brain requires to complete that task. “If you feel like your brain’s on autopilot most or all of the time, that’s an indication that you need to increase the challenge a little bit,” she says.

Below are some examples you can do to challenge your brain:

• Stay socially active: Follow and contribute to a conversation that requires mental prowess. Join a book club and talk about what you’ve read.

• Visit intellectually invigorating places:These can include exciting exhibits at museums or visits to cultural centers, or even trips to places you’ve never been, but always wanted to visit.

• Learn new skills: Always wanted to paint, but never did? Take a class. Want to learn a new language? Purchase a program or sign up for a class. Practice speaking with others who are already fluent or also learning. You can also follow in the footsteps of Seresa at our office, who challenges herself with 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles!

• Mix in some variety when it comes to every day activities: For instance, try out a new recipe or cooking technique. Drive a different route home, or hike down a new trail with a friend.

Despite unfounded claims by programs such as Lumosity, we here at the Farr Law Firm are pleased to report some of the ways seniors CAN keep their minds sharp, and hope you will take advantage of them. If you or a loved one hasn’t done estate, incapacity planning, or long-term care planning, please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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