Shelby Lyman on Chess: A Help for Seniors?
The notion that games such as chess can be at least a partial antidote to the mental ravages of aging is a common one, and it may be true.
The argument is simple: If you use it, you are less likely to lose it.
Arnold Denker, a U.S. champion (1945 and 1946), observed that he had never met a serious chess player with dementia. Hyperbole perhaps, but reasonable enough to contain an element of truth.
It’s a serious question, of course.
The population of the world’s industrial countries is noticeably aging. In Japan, for example, the average life expectancy is 87 for women, a few years less for men.
There are already many 90-year-olds — with even more in the pipeline — and of course many younger seniors who might benefit from the game, as this writer, who has played serious chess for more than half a century, can attest.
Subjectively, at least, there is an enhanced experience of mental alertness when I play regularly on the Internet. But even more important, already a strong player of master strength in my youth, I find my chess improving in certain respects, the more I play.
That’s the greatest part of the fun — life-encouraging and enhancing, to say the least.
We used to say that “chess makes kids smarter.” It also may be true, not as dramatically but no less significantly, for older adults as well.