Gambling and the Aging Brain

Visit any casino whether it’s in Las Vegas, a local establishment or aboard a cruise ship and you are bound to find a growing number of older adults playing the slots or pulling up a seat at the poker table.  But could gambling actually be good for the aging brain?

According to a December 26, 2015 CNN report, Japanese research has found that gambling can stimulate the brain in a way that may help prevent dementia.  The study, by the Suwa Tokyo University of Science, found that elderly participants who played a variety of casino games including mahjong, baccarat, pachinko and slot machines, improved recognition and increased brain activity in the frontal and parietal lobes.  Some retirement homes in Japan are equipping common areas with casino-style entertainment, using only play money and competing for prizes instead of cash.

It’s not all good news though, as the AARP(American Association of Retired Persons) warns, adults over the age of 50 who make up more than half of casino patrons, are susceptible to gambling addiction.  Many casinos offer free transportation, meals, free hotels stays and other incentives to draw in older gamblers.

Besides risking the loss of hard-earned retirement savings, compulsive gambling can also lead to serious health problems including obesity, heart disease, depression and insomnia.   Older people with dementia may be unable to make appropriate decisions and are at a high risk for gambling problems. Some prescription drugs used to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s have also been linked with a greater risk for developing gambling problems due to a lack of impulse control and compulsive behaviors.

To learn more about problem gambling and for a list of community resources, visit  The Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario at .