Poly develops cellphone games to help keep dementia at bay

Mr Chew Khoon Hong (second from right) and MindWorks developers (from left) Dr Chee Chew Sim, Mr Sam Sim, Professor Ryuta Kawashima and Ms Shereen Pong showing the free Android games. Mr Chew is one of the seniors who tested the brain-training games,
Mr Chew Khoon Hong (second from right) and MindWorks developers (from left) Dr Chee Chew Sim, Mr Sam Sim, Professor Ryuta Kawashima and Ms Shereen Pong showing the free Android games. Mr Chew is one of the seniors who tested the brain-training games, which are memory-based and target people above the age of 50.PHOTO: TEMASEK POLYTECHNIC

Temasek Polytechnic (TP) has developed a set of mobile-phone games to help seniors stave off dementia.

The free Android games are memory-based and target people above the age of 50. They incorporate basic matching, counting and sequencing skills, with a time limit of two minutes.

Called MindWorks, the set of six brain-training games was launched yesterday at TP's Ageing Symposium 2017, held on the poly's campus in Tampines.

With the theme, "Towards Successful Ageing", the symposium focused on three key aspects of a person: physical (exercise), cognitive (brain training) and socio-emotional (mindfulness).

The games were developed by researchers from TP's Centre for Applied Gerontology and students from the School of Informatics and Information Technology as a solution to the increasing cognitive problems faced by senior citizens in Singapore.

They consulted Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, who flew in at least twice a year to check the status of the games' development.

Professor Kawashima, director of the Institute of Development, Ageing and Cancer at Tohoku University, said: "We have been developing an approach to maintain and improve the brain and mental health through interdisciplinary industry-academic collaborative research, so that we can overcome many of the problems related to a super-ageing society."

He said the games could also help prevent and reduce dementia.

The TP team started their research in early 2014, and collected feedback from 22 seniors above the age of 50. The games have been tested on a batch of 60 seniors, with the results still being evaluated.

One of the seniors, Mr Chew Khoon Hong, 60, found the games enjoyable. "When you play the games, they have difficulty levels, which make the games quite interesting," said the retired facility manager. "You have to think fast; you have to use mental calculation."

The developers recommend that the games be played 15 minutes daily, three to five times a week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Poly develops cellphone games to help keep dementia at bay'. Print Edition | Subscribe