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10 Fun Brain Games That Help Cognition and Memory
April 25th, 2019

Everyone enjoys a good brain game every once in a while, and certainly Seniors are no different. In the same way that walks, stretches and sports help people improve their physical health, brain games and puzzles can help people improve their mental acuity and memory, which is important as we age.

On this blog, we’ve discussed various ways for Seniors to stay physically active. In a spirit of inclusivity, we thought it would be fun to discuss a few ways to keep mentally fit – or at the very least, entertained! In this post, we’ll talk about the benefits of brain games for both healthy Seniors and those living with Dementia, before diving into a list of easily findable games. For the list, we have a mix of old classics, and new, online games.

The Benefits of Brain Games

For some, there is a preconceived notion that brain games are only for older adults with Dementia. In fact, these puzzles, games and quizzes – known collectively in scientific circles as “cognitive training” – are just as beneficial to healthy people as well. They certainly do help people with Dementia (as well as reduce the risk of Dementia), but their benefits may also extend to anyone looking to prevent broad mental decline in older age.

Brain games help with memory, language, spatial awareness and strategy, all things that often come in handy in daily life at home. Together with in-home care – including our private in-home Dementia care and Palliative care in Toronto and Mississauga – the benefits Seniors reap from these brain games will likely also include making them feel more relaxed and comfortable in their own home.

It’s important to note, before we proceed, that not all researchers are confident about the miracle effects of brain games on healthy people. And some important research casts doubt on claims made by leading brain game makers. But, even if these games can’t promise total security against the cognitive decline of aging, at least they are fun diversions that activate the brain for a brief period. Let’s look at a few of the best, and most fun brain games out there.

Chess

This is the quintessential brain game, a tête-à-tête of strategy and foresight that requires close attention and keen spatial visualization. Getting good at chess takes some practice, but there are online courses available, as well as Senior centres, chess clubs and even classes through the library you can learn from, all here in the GTA. Of course, if you are looking for something a little less complex, checkers is always a fantastic alternative!

Lumosity

This is the original online “Brain Game” company, the one about which all those aforementioned studies have been squabbling. Whether or not it greatly improves mental acuity in the long term may be up for debate, but there’s no denying that these brain puzzles keep you sharp while you’re playing them. And sometimes that may be enough. Luminosity’s memory, attention, flexibility, speed and problem solving games all provide an entertaining challenge, for Seniors to undertake alone or with a family member or caregiver.

Jigsaw Puzzles

We all remember evenings spent around the kitchen table, sorting through barely distinguishable pieces of knobbly jigsaw puzzle. It’s as much a nostalgic act as anything else, but working on a jigsaw puzzle can also exercise spatial skills, focus and memory. Jigsaw Puzzles come in varying skill levels and are therefore great for all levels of mental acuity. Further than that, finishing a jigsaw puzzle carries with it its own sense of accomplishment – seeing the whole scene come together piece by piece is both fun and rewarding.

Jigsaw Puzzles are fantastic brain games for any Senior to play with an in-home caregiver, as it is quiet and open enough to allow for some great conversation. Visit our homepage to learn more about the various services we offer at Integracare.  

Call to Mind

Call to Mind is a game specifically created and designed for people with Dementia. The game, nicknamed by the company as “The Communication Game” involves spinning a wheel and then following one of a number of creative or communicative prompts. This might involve asking the person with Dementia some questions about themselves, which can be helpful for caregivers or friends who wish to learn more about the person. Call to Mind is meant to stimulate memory, and facilitate communication.

Mahjong

This Chinese tile game has made quite a splash internationally, requiring quick thinking, skill and strategy. It takes a few tries to pick the game up, but once you do, it’s easy to see how people spend entire days playing it. A cross-sectional study recently linked playing Mahjong with greater hand-eye coordination in older adults, so it may seem the game has purpose beyond mere entertainment.

Duolingo

Although not marketed as a game, you could view Duolingo as such – the free language learning website puts users through a series of tasks and tests, each brightly coloured with fun infographics, in order to learn a new language. Learning a new language takes time and dedication, but it can pay off in wonderful ways. Not only does it open you up to countless new interactions with people, but also, as the AARP puts it, “learning a new language is like sending your brain to the gym”.

Sudoku

Beloved puzzle of Sunday morning newspapers everywhere, Sudoku only really became popular in the last decade or so. The numbered logic puzzle requires players to fill a 9×9 grid with the numbers 1 through 9, ensuring that no number appears twice in a row, column or subsection. As far as head-scratchers go, these can run the gamut between easy and near impossible. They make a great solo game, for those hours spent on one’s own, or they can be happily solved with friends, family or caregivers.  

Sporcle

This isn’t so much a single game as it is a vast resource for different trivia quizzes online. At Sporcle.com, you will find countless quizzes, in categories like “Geography”, “Music”, “Movies”, “Sports” and “History”. All the quizzes are user-generated, and you can vote on which quizzes you like the best. Speaking from experience, this is a wonderful website to spend a few hours flexing your brain muscles!

Bananagrams

Break this one out when the grandkids are over, or simply as a fun game to play with your caregiver. Bananagrams is a variant on scrabble – it comes with a banana-shaped pouch containing lettered tiles, which you dump out to make conjoining words. But rather than taking turns, as you would in Scrabble, all players play simultaneously with a handful of tiles, and whomever uses all their letters first is crowned the winner.

Crossword Puzzles

Crosswords are entertaining, and can help stimulate memory, focus and problem solving. “Your Life Choices”, a popular retirement website, posts a number of daily crosswords for Seniors. And if you’re stuck, each crossword allows you to ask for hints. Want to go one step further though? You can learn how to make your own crossword puzzles, which you can give to your friends and family members, through a New York Times online tutorial – just Google “New York Times learn how to make a crossword puzzle”.

Like with physical activity, there are numerous ways to stay mentally active as well! Whether you, or the Senior in your life, play games for mental stimulation, or just as a fun activity to pass time, you can’t go wrong with one of these 10 wonderful games. Good luck!

 


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