From the moment he test-drove the brain game, Ed Johnson was riveted.
The word teasers flashing on his computer screen seemed tuned to his personal abilities. And the accompanying voice track prodded or consoled - "it actually congratulates you," he said - based on his answers.
Now, the 92-year-old former management executive, an engineer by training and crossword puzzler by hobby, is scheduling computer time for fellow residents at the Fox Hill Village retirement community in Westwood. The facility just purchased a couple of these newfangled brain games and residents are lining up for 20-minute sessions.
The products are spreading like kudzu through retirement communities and senior centeres, as older Americans search for ways to stay mentally sharp. Researchers, however, have yet to determine whether these brain games, targeted to seniors and now an $80 million-a-year market, deliver what they promise.