Alzheimer's Foundation of America offers incentives to stay mentally active

Keeping the mind active is believed to be one of the best ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease, and now one organization is offering a cash prize to encourage older adults to exercise their brain. For the second year in a row, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is launching a contest to see which older adults can perform the best on a challenging puzzle, with winners getting $2,500.

Dubbed the National Brain Game Challenge, the contest launches September 30 and is an online game meant to test the mental sharpness of seniors. The challenge certainly won't be easy however, as it has been designed by Merl Reagle, a well-known developer of some of the most difficult crossword puzzles. While the contest is a way for older adults to win some extra cash, the AFA says it also raises awareness of the importance of brain health.

"One way to exercise the brain is to do specialized puzzles requiring a higher-than-normal amount of concentration, sort of like a jogger running a sprint every so often," Reagle said. "The National Brain Game Challenge is a chance to put all of that stored-up word-game knowledge to the test - with the clock ticking - and all for a great cause."

The contest comes just as more evidence surfaces suggesting staying mentally stimulated is part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Specifically, a team of researchers from UCLA found that older adults who used a brain fitness program on the computer enjoyed better memory and language skills than those who did not.

The study's results, along with programs offered by the AFA, may help turn the tide of age-related memory loss. Currently, memory decline affects about 40 percent of older adults