While there isn’t a cure for cognitive decline yet, studies indicate there may be a link between brain games and improving cognitive abilities. The research may be inconclusive, but more medical experts are recommending brain games to slow down or prevent senior memory loss. Just as physical exercise keeps your body in shape, certain games and puzzles can keep your brain active and healthy.
Five Ways Brain Games and Active Learning Benefit Seniors
Brain games help slow down age-related mental decline.Many seniors experience an age-related mental decline with slower reaction times, diminished vocabulary and a memory that isn’t as sharp as it used to be. This is all par for the course of living a long, happy life. However, brain games and active learning can help reengage and improve a person’s thinking skills. It’s especially helpful if you vary the games played to promote learning new skills, words or trivia facts.
Brain games help seniors stay connected with loved ones.
Wondering what to do with an aging loved one in your care? Try playing a brain game the whole family can enjoy. Not only will you be giving their brain health a boost, but you’ll also get the chance to connect with your loved one in a meaningful way. You can include a wider network of friends and family by connecting through a video chat app on your smartphone or tablet while playing online brain games.
Brain games can help alleviate senior stress and anxiety.
Finishing a crossword puzzle or playing a board game can help ease feelings of stress or anxiety. Playing games is good for the mind and soul, as it keeps people socially active with friends, family or others in their community. Being more social helps eliminate or reduce the feelings of loneliness or depression many seniors face. Who couldn’t benefit from a boost in their brain health, mood and social skills?
Mastering new skills or games makes seniors feel engaged.
You’re never too old to learn a new skill or master a new game. Finding new hobbies as we age is essential to our mental and physical health. If quilting, gardening or photography aren’t quite your senior loved one’s speed, consider helping them explore a new language through the many learning apps on your smartphone or tablet. You can also try your hand at helping them learn a new brain game. Staying in a routine encourages passive brain participation. If we never push our boundaries and develop new cognitive skills, we may start to feel a disconnect with the world around us.
Learning and playing games will keep you young at heart.
If you want to stay young at heart, the secret is finding new ways to test your cognitive abilities. It’s incredible how games that encourage active learning can make people feel younger and smarter while combating the feelings of boredom, restlessness or isolation plaguing today’s seniors. Whether it’s an online version of Jeopardy! or a simple game of match the cards, you can’t go wrong with games.
Effective Brain Stimulating Games and Activities for Seniors
You may be wondering what’s categorized as a brain game when purchasing gifts for aging loved ones. The truth is that, while just about any game is better than being sedentary and watching television, not every game is effective for slowing cognitive decline. There are a number that allow you to stretch your brain, including:
A classic game of strategy, chess helps build logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. It may initially seem complicated, but learning how to play can strengthen cognitive function, increasing IQ and focus. Chess can be played in person or online.
Recent research indicates that regularly playing checkers is connected to larger brain volume and improved cognitive health. Checkers can help improve hand-eye coordination, increase mental acuity, and alleviate stress. Because you play with other people, it can also help provide positive social interaction.
Scrabble is beneficial for every age group, but particularly for older adults, because it improves memory functions, lowers blood pressure and increases overall general wellbeing. It can be educational, too, because there are sometimes words you and your loved one didn’t previously know.
There is evidence to suggest that playing games focused on language may lead to improvements in memory, cognitive speed and verbal learning. These games include crosswords, word searches, anagrams, cryptograms, branded games like Mad Libs and online games like the recently released Wordle.
Card games help people practice skills like reasoning, problem solving, memory and concentration. Card games can be played with a standard deck of cards or may have cards specific for the game, like Uno.
Matching and Memory Games for Adults
By testing short-term memory and the ability to remember patterns, matching and memory games engage the brain, activating areas related to recall and pattern recognition. Try a card matching game, or a memory game like listing the months of the year in alphabetical order or listing things that start with a certain letter.
Playing trivia games can be an entertaining experience while also stimulating older adults’ minds. These games can be played as individual or on teams, and the topics and methods of playing can be modified to meet the needs of the people playing. Team trivia and Trivial Pursuit are two examples of fun trivia games.
Brain Stimulating Games for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
There are many treatments in the works for people with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, including new medication and deep brain stimulation. While these treatments show a lot of promise, science has not yet found a cure for these debilitating conditions. There is evidence to indicate, however, that stimulating the brain using certain games can be helpful.
Recently, research was reviewed on the role of games in dementia care, looking at board games, video games, and virtual reality games. The review concluded that when people in the early and middle stages of dementia played these games, they saw improvement in a variety of cognitive abilities, including short-term memory, reaction time, problem solving, communication and logical reasoning. More research is needed, but there are some games believed to support a wide variety of cognitive skills for people with dementia.
When choosing brain games for adults with dementia, it is important to select games suitable for the individual’s cognitive abilities and preferences, carefully creating simple, familiar and non-frustrating experiences. Examples of games and activities for seniors with dementia include:
As stated earlier, games focused on language can improve memory, speed and verbal learning. For people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, research suggests that playing these games can lead to improvements not only seen through cognitive testing but also through neurophysical tests.
Working on a jigsaw puzzle is a fun way to work on memory and reasoning skills. Jigsaw puzzles come in a variety of difficulties, from simple, easy-to-piece-together puzzles to more complicated puzzles that require quite a bit of hand-eye coordination and memory recall. This makes it easy to choose a puzzle appropriate for a person’s abilities.
Dice games often have a central component of luck, but they are good for helping people with dementia practice numerical and calculation skills. Brain-stimulating dice games include backgammon, kismet, liar’s dice, shut the box and Yahtzee.
Card games, as mentioned above, can boost skills like reasoning, problem solving, memory, and concentration. Since these skills are often in decline in people with dementia, they can be extremely beneficial. Matching games like go fish, trick-taking games like bridge, and even solitaire variations can be good for people with dementia.
Board games use a premade board with game pieces and often elements like cards and dice. One recent study found that a higher frequency of playing board games between ages 70 and 79 resulted in less cognitive decline. Good board games to try include Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Ticket to Ride, Cranium and chess.
Whether traditional desktop games, game systems like Wii and Switch, or cell phone and tablet games, research supports the theory that these games can enhance cognitive function in older adults, improving visual recognition, visual memory and attention. Tetris, Candy Crush Saga, Animal Crossing, Wii Sports, and mobile or app versions of classic word games, puzzles and board games can all be beneficial.
BrightStar Care® offers around-the-clock in-home senior care
At BrightStar Care®, we take a unique approach to caring for older adults by pairing our unmatched clinical expertise with key education resources to help and empower families. BrightStar Care helps families meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of an older relative by providing excellence in home health care.
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Looking for in-home care services or assisted living for your loved one or a reliable medical staffing partner for your organization? Our experienced local care team members are ready to help. Find a location near you, contact us online, or call 866.618.7827 to speak with a local care expert and learn more about how BrightStar Care offers A Higher Standard®.