Editor’s Notebook

Could electronic toy keep minds keen?

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Empty-nesting is not that much fun. But when the boys return for holidays, the joy is boundless, energizing us before their arrival and remaining pooled up for weeks after they've left. We miss them terribly, but we know they're doing what they were meant to be doing, and they're doing it well.

Last month, they both came home for Memorial Day, and since the holiday fell between Mother's Day and Father's Day, we thought we'd split the difference and jointly celebrate these parental feast days at the same time. The logistics made sense, but for our sons, there was an economic advantage, too. Instead of shopping for separate presents, they bought one gift they thought we both could use: a video game called Brain Age, which features math and logic problems, along with reading and drawing exercises (using the game's touch-screen technology).

Talk about role reversals. It seems like only yesterday we were getting video games for the boys. Back then, experts claimed the games enhanced children's mental acuity and eye-hand coordination. I was skeptical, though, as the boys and their friends could sit entranced for hours before a screen, incommunicative and oblivious to hunger, thirst, sleep and other calls of nature.

Now, experts are saying video games like Brain Age help older Americans keep their minds active. Nintendo, the game's manufacturer, quotes Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski, dean of the University of Southern California's Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, in support of the technology's efficacy. 'Aging is about taking on new challenges for our minds,' she says.

In this issue, we've got some great tips for keeping your mind agile and fit ('Staying Sharp' on Page 12), and keeping you young at heart.

My wife, Barbara, has gleefully embraced the idea of playing video games. It puts her in mind of the movie 'Back to the Future.' For me, the whole idea of hooking up a video game to the television, sorting out cables, connecting them to a control box, and operating the buttons and joystick is something akin to a 'Brave New World.' I figure if I can get that far, I've given my brain a workout before I even get into any of the exercises.

Dennis McLaughlin
Managing editor